The week of Candlemas

January 31st 2017
By: Melanie
The week of Candlemas

With such a strong Christian history permeating St Albans embodied in its impressive cathedral, it can be interesting to have a fuller understanding of some of the traditions that have formed our culture. February 2nd is Candlemas the date of a very ancient festival with a Christian / Pagan history.
 
The Christian version of Candlemas is all to do with the Purification of the Virgin and is the end/culmination of the forty day period after Mary had her baby on December 25.  In pre-Christian times women had to wait forty days after giving birth before being allowed back into the church or Temple. This waiting period is still observed in many Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, this is why all Christian churches schedule the Christening of a new-born child for forty days after their arrival in keeping with this ancient purification practice.
 
Before Christian traditions took over Candlemas was the Festival of Lights, another Midwinter Festival.  The ancient Celts knew the date as Imbolc (this word has a Gaelic origin meaning, "in milk" or " in the belly"), and it was a festival of the Maiden Goddess and a traditional time to bless agricultural implements (especially the Plough) and livestock.
 
But you don’t have to be a pagan or a Christian to celebrate the week of this ancient festival which marks the returning of the light and a shift to the beginning of spring by lighting some candles to welcome the Spring into your St Albans home.