END now the white loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.
This is it, mes enfants, the absolutely LAST day of Christmas. No excuses, returns, or exchanges.
Candlemas is the Feast of the the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Under Jewish law, a woman was unclean after giving birth. For 40 days after the birth of a son and 60 after the birth of a daughter she was not allowed to worship in the Temple or indeed mix with the public. When the period ended, she was to present herself in the Temple and be ritually purified. She would also offer a sacrifice to God. A lamb, if she could afford it, or as in Mary’s case, two turtledoves (but not a partridge in a pear tree, but now you know why there are 2 turtledoves in the song.)
But it’s what happened at the Temple that makes this outing interesting. I’ll let Luke tell:
“22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”
So there you have it. Candlemas may be the most meaningful feast day of which you have never heard.
Traditionally in secular liturgical culture, the day was celebrated by getting in your last licks of Christmas. As Herrick observed the white bread and the Christmas pie say bye-bye, and…
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn ;
Which quench’d, then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year,
And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
Most of you likely don’t have yule logs, but there are other ways to say farewell. I find it is a good last day to listen to Christmas music and will giving one last glorious go to Praetorious’ “Mass for Christmas Morning” until, God willing, next Christmas morning.
Also you can do like the French and eat your crepes. The French traditionally ea crepes on Candlemas as they remind the French of the sun. And why not? I say cordially. Crepes are easy, delicious, and popular with the youth. Eat up!
And be not sad…we’re officially in Carnival where the fun never ends!!!!