Candlemas – Imbolc – Lupercalia

February 2 this year is the festival of Candlemas/Imbolc/Lupercalia and marks the half way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice – without a doubt this is a date to celebrate. Any reason for a drink and a good meal is worth making note of.

Appropriately, the traditional symbol of this day is the Snowdrop, also known as Candlemas Bells and very much the favourite flower in this household of any time of year – albeit we won’t be seeing ours until well into March.

Snowdrops (Galanthas nivalis) are known as Candlemas Bells because – in some countries, but not here – they can bloom this early in the year. The superstitious used to believe that these flowers should not be brought into the house prior to Candlemas, although others claim that they somehow purify a home. Quote: “According to folklore, an angel helped these Candlemas bells to bloom and pointed them as a sign of hope to Eve, who wept in repentance and in despair over the cold and death that entered the world”.

For whatever reason, probably derived from early settlers being confused, the original purpose of the day morphed into Groundhog Day on this continent. The day on which bemused and sleepy groundhogs are unceremoniously dragged out of their winter naps to be waved in the air by men in top hats.

Traditional Candlemas foods are grain based in keeping with the day’s association with agriculture. They are often round and golden as well to evoke the sun; biscuits, pancakes and crepes are popular edibles for this holiday. Note that bit about pancakes which are round and symbolic of the sun … “Pancake Day” is Shrove Tuesday, this year the 16 February, but that date moves all over the calendar and some years ends up in March as it is tied to the date of Easter. We much prefer to celebrate seasonal occasions that have some relationship to actual seasons – hence the Winter Solstice instead of Christmas and Candlemas instead of Shrove Tuesday.

If you prefer to follow the Celtic Imbolc celebrations eggs, honey and butter are all important items.

Meanwhile – just think snowdrops and eat and drink what you like. We will be having pancakes.