Candlemas and Twelfth Night.
Have you already taken down your Christmas decorations? In some parts of the world, it is considered unlucky to leave them hanging after ‘Twelfth Night’, which (depending on whether counting commences from Christmas Day or Boxing Day) falls on either the 5th or 6th of January. However, in many Christian countries it is customary to remove Yuletide trimmings after Candlemas (or Candlemass), which occurs on February 2.
The ‘twelve days of Christmas’ end with the celebration of the Epiphany (the ‘Twelfth Night’ is also known as Epiphany Eve), which commemorates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, and thus Jesus’ first exposure to the outside world. It is sometimes also referred to as ‘Three Kings’ Day’ and is a Christian feast that is occasioned by (amongst other things) the consumption of ‘Three Kings’ Cake’, in which it is traditional to conceal a small figurine. The twelve days of Christmas are also the subject of the Christmas carol by the same name, which is believed to have originated in France and was first published in English in 1780. And if you’re wondering about the relevance of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy entitled Twelfth Night (strictly Twelfth Night, or What You Will), this was originally intended as entertainment for the conclusion of the Christmas season.
Traditionally, on Candlemas Christian denominations including Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans, as well as Orthodox and Roman Catholics, take candles to their local church, where they are blessed for use in the ensuing year. This is symbolic since Jesus is also referred to in the scriptures as the ‘Light of the World’. Typically, candles are lit in homes and may also feature in other activities, such as processions. In some countries, Candlemas is associated with elaborate festivals; Europeans also commonly celebrate the occasion by preparing pancakes or crepes. This practice may have derived from Pope Gelasius I, who organized pancakes to be given to pilgrims visiting Rome.
In fact, Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the oldest Christian holy days. It marks Jesus’ presentation at the temple to formally introduce him to the Jewish faith – an event also known as the Hypapante. It also harks back to the Jewish custom of new mothers being ‘purified’ by giving up a burnt offering 33 days after their son’s circumcision. Hence the date was fixed 40 days after Christmas; there are numerous historical references that reliably record the observance of this festival as early as the 4th century AD. The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, in homage to the god of fertility and shepherds, was celebrated in mid-February, and this may have contributed to the widespread acceptance of Candlemas, as pagan revelry was supplanted by a Christian feast.
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wax may contain toxic chemicals that can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. In contrast, beeswax candles release negative ions as they burn, which actually assist to detoxify the air, in a similar fashion to many modern air purifiers.
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