Candlemass

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
from Galanthus meaning, roughly, milkflower and nivalis-of the snow.

Today, February 2nd, is Candlemass Day, Imbolc, Groundhog Day, St Bridget’s day and probably a festival of remembrance for others I know nothing about, and one of those days traditionally used to predict the weather, certainly here in England.
The old rhyme says,

If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.

There are many twists on this but you get the drift-if its bright and cold, 6 more weeks of winter will follow, if it’s wet, winter is nearly over. For the record, it’ s bright and cold here with rain forecast for later. Make of that what you will!

Snowdrops are associated with the festival of Candlemass throughout the British Isles, being already in full bloom in many places in the South and well on the way elsewhere. On Candlemass, falling as it does 40 days after Jesus’ birth, services remember Jesus’ presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem and Mary’s purification. The snowdrops are thought to depict Mary’s purity and chastity and Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. The tiny piercing spears of the snowdrop foliage symbolise Mary’s sorrow and lament at the foot of the cross.

The Groundhog connection is also to do with the weather, and is linked to that idea of it it was sunny, an animal emerging from its hole saw its shadow and thus there would be 6 more weeks of winter. In the Old World, it was badgers who feature in the story, but the German settlers to Pennsylvania used the local groundhogs as the predictor.

As for Imbloc, this is one of the festivals of the Pagan and Celtic calendar, lying exactly half way been the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Imbolc celebrations centred around the lighting of fires. Fire was perhaps more important for this festival than others as it was also the holy day of Brigid (also known as Bride, Brigit, Brid), the Goddess of fire, healing and fertility. The lighting of fires celebrated the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed ‘Candlemas’ when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary. And so the celebrations and stories are handed on and changed to fit the time and place they told in. I love the history behind the words and the celebrations. And I love these flowers too.

Dwarf Daffodil “February Gold”
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