Was Candlemass A Major Holiday in Medieval Times?

Candlemass (Feb. 2) is known as the Purification of Mary (mothetr of Jesus).
It is a feast day barely mentioned today 9in the RC Church). Was it a major holiday in the old days? Why has interest in it declined?

Too many holidays make the ones you do celebrate less celebratory.

It really was never widespread as a big public holiday, though important to church services. here and there, communitys and even countries, would take it up as a major feast for periods of time, but it never really stuck or spread.

from the old sailor sayings:
Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again

Seems to me this has been supplanted by Groundhog Day.

Most wiccan holydays have been coopted by the church. This is one of the more ridiculous. Groundhogs?

It was a pretty good doom metal band in the 80’s.

I know that in 15th century Flanders it was one of 53 or so holidays that workers got off.
Oh, and some towns would have fancy stuff involved like liturgical plays with live doves and reenactments of the scenes involved. So, yeah, a holiday. Not anything like Easter week but it was noticed.

Pagan. Wicca (by that name and modern form) didn’t exist until the 1950s when Gerald Gardner adapted what was known of ancient nature religion (whether through his own research or (as he reported) through contact with a coven that had been passing the knowledge down since the suppression of it by the church) and began to teach it to others.

I know this can be a somewhat contentious subject (being a former Wiccan (of the Llewellyn Press variety) myself), but other than Gardner’s own writings, we can’t know for certain if that New Forest group even actually existed before Gardner.

ETA: I’m not arguing that Imbolc didn’t exist as a genuine Old Religion holy day before Gardner, just that to say that the Church co-opted it from Wicca is inaccurate.

Stupid sexy Flanders!

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘barely mentioned’. It’s celebrated every year in Catholic churches thoughout the world.

In the 1960s Feb 2 was known as St Blaise Day- we used to get our throats blessed with a pair of candles, IIRC.

The farmer’s version:
The provident farmer,
On Candlemas Day,
Has half of his fires,
An half of his hay.*

Groundhog Day, to give it its modern name, is approximately midway through the winter season - at least in New England, from where this doggerel comes. If you have only used half of your firewood and half of your livestock fodder left at that point, you should make it through the winter comfortably.

February 2, May 1, July 31-August 1, and October 31-November 1, are the “cross-quarter days” halfway through the four seasons. (Don’t dispute the fact they’re not precisely halfway through; we’re talking folk wisdom here.)

They were secondary feasts, not the major ones at the solstices and equinoxes, but good days for a celebration approximately halfway between the big ones.

Just as Hallowe’en combines tradiions from the old pagan Samhain feast with those of All Saints Day, Candlemas includes those of Imbolg, the Purification of the Virgini/Presentation of Christ at the Temple, and weather lore appropriate to a halfway-through-winter date.

thank you, Polycarp.:slight_smile:

Wasn’t it on 3 February? That’s when we have the Blessing of Throats now.

Nor can I think of any Pagan holidays co-opted by Christianity. Easter has been around since the start, but yes the *name *comes form a very obscure pagan source.

Christmas was chosen by an Christian theologian based upon some rather odd numerology/theory wiki “According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, the date of creation was considered to be on March 25th.[49] The early Christian writer Sextus Julius Africanus (220 A.D.) thought this dating plausible and suggested that Christ became incarnate on that date.[50] According to Julius, since the Word of God became incarnate from the moment of his conception, this meant that, after nine months in the Virgin Mary’s womb, Jesus was born on December 25th

Now, sure, today we have some other ideas of when Jesus was born, and that date is quite doubtful. Still, it was chosen for that reason. However, back then, Christmas was not an important holiday at all, good Christians did not celebrate birthdays.

And, the date of Saturnalia was not Dec 25. Dec 17 was the date.

True, Halloween, aka Samhain is a better case. But really, it’s not a Christian holiday, it’s more secular.

Beltane is more or less May Day, hardly Christian. Lughnasadh (Aug 1) is not a Christian holiday either. (Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori)

Getting back to the subject of the OP, true, Imbolc is almost the same day as Candlemas. However, it is doubtful that a local Gaelic festival would have had much effect on the early Christian fathers, a whole continent away. Sure, after the Celtic Christian Church conflated St Brigid with the Celtic deity of that name, they very well might have placed the Saints day on Feb1 for that purpose, as little is known of the historical Saint.

The date of Candlemas might have had something to do with the Roman Pagan feast of Lupercalia. :dubious:

Hello-All Saints Day? Nov 1?

hold on, got some links



Although some of those days are celebrated widely in European tradition, those four specifically come from Irish tradition. Ireland did not have major celebrations of the solstices and equinoxes. There is some evidence of the cross-quarter days’ importance in more ancient Celtic tradition (cf. the Calendar of Coligny*) but by and large they have to do with Ireland’s climate and seasons. Irish monks were important in Western European intellectual history, esp. in the 7th-9th centuries, which is probably how they got to influence Catholic tradition and thus reach a wider audience.

*That calendar also marks the equinox but it seems to have more to do with accurate timekeeping than holiday or festival.

The day after Halloween.

However, in the Jewish tradition the day starts the evening before. This is the reason why Jewish holidays begin at sundown the evening prior. Following that tradition, one could argue that Halloween is the start of All Saints Day.

Just a thought.

Halloween is not a Jewish holiday, akaik. Nor is All Saints day.

Nor does the observance of All saints Day in any way like anything we know about Samhain. There’s pretty much a Saint’s day for every day, you know.