Candlemas is celebrated on the 2nd day of February each year. The day is celebrated as one of renewal, hope, and purification. According to an old Jewish custom, a woman who gives birth to a child is considered unclean and homebound for a certain number of days following the birth.
The duration of this period differs for the birth of a boy and the birth of a girl. If a boy child is born, the woman is unclean for seven days and then remains at home for an additional thirty-three days, totaling 40 days. If a girl child is born, the woman is unclean for 14 days and then remains at home for an additional sixty-six days, totaling 80 days. During these periods, the woman does not touch anything holy.
February 2nd is exactly 40 days after the birth of Jesus Christ, and it is on this day that Mother Mary, along with Joseph, brought their newborn son, Jesus, to the Temple. Mother Mary was cleansed on this day. Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple on this day. At that time, an elderly holy man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. When Simeon held the baby Jesus, he recognized that Jesus had come for the salvation of all. Simeon declared that Jesus was “A light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.”
The light was the inspiration for the celebration with candles. It was, and still remains, a Christian celebration of the purification of Mother Mary and the first appearance of Jesus in the Temple. In the early years, people would place their candles outside the church to be blessed. They would then carry them in a procession to the church to imitate the appearance of Jesus in the Temple.
Candles are an important symbol used on Candlemas Day. Additionally, the snowdrop flower is mentioned in an old rhyme which states, “The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day.