Monday, 2 February 2009

On Candlemas Day - Thanks Mr Farraday!


I don't suppose it will be long before there will be nobody still alive up here who can remember the days before electric lighting. Because there are so many remote farms around here electric light was very late coming to them and they had to make do with candle power. I think that is why so many farming families got up with the sun and went to bed when it went down. On the occasions when we have had a power cut (we are on a separate line and it does occasionally give up the ghost in bad weather) I am always struck by how difficult it is to manage by candle power; romantic it might be but don't try to read any small print!

Today is Candlemas day - no longer of any importance - but there was a time when this was not so. Before the days of electric light this was traditionally the day when all the candles needed for the church in the coming year, were blessed - hence Candle Mass.

I didn't realise until somebody on TV pointed it out yesterday, it is exactly half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox so is seen as absolute mid winter. I know it was an important day on the farm because that was when the farmer checked his supplies to make sure he had half of them left. There is a folk lore poem:

A farmer should on Candlemas day

have half his corn and half his hay.

It was apparently also the day when if you had forgotten to take down your Christmas decorations on Twelfth Night you could legitimately take them down. As Robert Herrick says in the poem Candlemas Eve

Down with rosemary and bay,

down with mnistletoe.

Instead of holly now upraise

the greener box for show.

Today we have had about five inches of snow and the weather is a mixture of beautiful sunshine and white-out blizzards. So there is one Candlemas saying that cheers me up:-

If Candlemas be fine and sunny there's a lot more winter to come.

If it be bad weather then the worst is over.

Not sure where that leaves us as the day is a mixture of both.!

You will see from the photograph that Tess enjoys the snow.


On a completely different note. Poet in Residence has been talking a lot lately about haiku and haikutrios - and has now added an extra element of trying to include the same word in each stanza of the trio. I struggled with this and even asked him to help by supplying a word. But he quite rightly, said I had to find the word from my own experience. So here is my first effort.


The Waiting Game.


The yellow aconite
waits for the warm sun to shine
to raise up its head.

All the brown earth waits
for the faint stirring of Spring
to throw up its seed.

But the sharp, green nettle
pushing through the dead, brown grass
waits for nothing!
Happy Candlemas everyone - just give Michael Farraday a thought when you switch on your light.

48 comments:

jinksy said...

Think I'll go and light a cnadle for a bit of extra warmth...

jinksy said...

...or even a candle...

Shaista said...

Hello from the snowy flat lands of Cambridge. I think the snow today is a few inches thick but no more, still so full of promises to keep...
I shall be trudging out in a bit, wish I had a dog to keep me company :)

Cathy said...

Your haiku trio is very pretty. Let's hope Spring is around the corner. Alot of our snow has melted along with the ice but forecast is for a storm tonight. At least my dogs love playing in it. I've often read of Candlemas not really knowing what it was. Thank you.

Sal said...

I think it is important to remember these special days.
I went to the Lammas Fair,in Exeter, last year (I think that's the opposite of Candlemas,if I remember rightly a cross-quarter holiday between the Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox.)
There were plenty of people lining the streets too.
No snow here in Devon ;-)

willow said...

I didn't know the background of Candlemas Day. I have enjoyed the lovely snowy winter we've had so far in the midwest.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Weaver, that is most interesting - so today is the middle of Winter - I'd always thought of early February as the beginning of Spring! Wishful thinking perhaps ...

Our newly emerged snowdrops are today hidden under thick snow, and it is my job again to grit our steep front steps.

Love your haikus. I think you would enjoy Sepiru Chris's haikus. He also has links on his last-but-one post (with photos of frogs at the top) to haiku translations. You can access his blog via my blogroll - it is called e-cuneiform scratchings.

HelenMHunt said...

That's really interesting about Candlemass. We had a power cut here a couple of weeks ago, so had to use candles for light for a couple of hours. I actually found it quite relaxing to have no TV, radio, computer etc - just flickering candlelight, and enough to read by.

Poet in Residence said...

This morning I saw a house in the snow in the forest with decorative Chinese paper lanterns hanging by the front door. I don't know if they were for Candlemass Day or for Chinese New Year. But it was nice to see it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jinksy - even a cnadle would be better than nothing on this freezing day - as long as I don't have to strain my eyes to read by candlelight I quite like it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hi Shaista in the flatlands of Cambridgeshire - know it well and as I come from Lincolnshire originally I am used to flatlands - the trouble is they are very bleak when the wind blows from the east.

The Weaver of Grass said...

My dog adores the snow too Cathy.

The Weaver of Grass said...

How interesting about Lammas Sal - yes it would be one of what used to be called Quarter days I think.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I like the snow when I look out on it willow - but am not so keen if I have to venture into it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you Raph - I shall visit your site later today to look at those haiku.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Helen - we get quite a few power cuts in windy weather and have just invested in two battery-driven storm lanterns. David uses one when he takes tess out for her last walk - he looks like Good King Wenceslas.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I expect it was for chinese new year Poet - I love those lanterns, they look so flimsy and yet they last a long time. We now have a lot of snow here - it is very beautiful.

Dominic Rivron said...

Nettles or no nettles, I'm going to build a snowman.

greg rappleye said...

I very much like your poem.

The snow you have was here, about ten days or-so ago.

You are quite welcome!

Leenie said...

No candle mass here. We celebrate the half-way point by looking for groundhogs' shadows. Not nearly as romantic. Fun to learn about your customs. Sorry to hear about all your snow. The news here said Heathrow is shut down and London is struggling to deal with all the extra ice and white stuff. Stay warm!

ksr said...

Thank you for explaining Candlemas. According to our silly groundhog, we have 6 weeks of winter left. I already assumed that, since it is only February. We are expecting the wintry mix tonight. Sigh.

Heather said...

Thankyou Weaver for reminded us how lucky we are, and Michael Farraday. Sorry the snow makes life so difficult for you and yours. We are very fortunate to live in an area seldom affected by snow, and have just enough to hide the weeds and make everywhere look pretty. Keep warm, glad you liked the lilies, Heather.

Heather said...

I pressed publish before saying how much I like you haiku. Sometimes a few lines can express so much.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I heard via the news that your corner of the globe received a heavy snow. I do hope you're getting along safe and comfortably.

Candlemas Day is pretty much a thing of the past here. (Incidentally, I hope you read my reply to your comment on my Groundhog Day post for some other connection.)

I'd also like to add my two cents worth into your discussion here of "winter" and it's beginning and ending dates. According to what I know, Celtic people began their winter with the festival of Samhain, around October 31, and ended the season at Imbolc, which came the beginning of February. This put midwinter at about the time of the solstice.

One of my favorite carols is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” by Christina Rossetti and Gustav Holst. I remember singing it as a child in the church choir during Nativity Service. What always puzzled me was why this lovely song insisted on equating the timing of the Christmas story with the middle of the winter—which even as a kid, I realized, if going by the calendar, occurred more like the first of February. And neither was this third-week date of December when the coldest, more wintry weather typically occurred—at least not here in Ohio.

Nowadays, of course, we begin winter ON the solstice. Just as we now begin summer ON the summer solstice. Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" didn't take place in early August. Both midwinter as well as midsummer came on their respective solstices.

Yup, I know…two cents is about what all of the above is worth. Ha!

Anyway, stay warm, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, go sledding, make "snow cream," or just sip a cup of hot tea and enjoy the white landscape.

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting is the information about Ca,ndlemas Day.I didn't know that and I read your post with great interest. Your writinds remind me of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady"by Edith Holden, who described her surroundings as you do.

Jenn Jilks said...

My dear husband (who just turned 59) grew up on a farm without running water or electricity. He has not-so-fond memories.

He refuses to go camping since he virtually camped for ten year until they moved to town.

He gets the heeby jeebies when I go around lighting candles and turning off the hydro. We have a seamless generator as our power goes off regularly and we like our modern conveniences!

Great post.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh Weaver, Sepiru Chris has just written a brilliant haiku for your word 'Wolliecobblies'! (It's under your comment over at mine).

Elizabeth said...

Do you know I had never quite realised when Candlemas was. a lovely old fashioned word that one played with and hadn't a clue about.

Your poem has bags of charm and is wonderful.
Several bloggers are having a poetry silent reading today.
My friend Bee ( an American living in England) has posted one of her own poems on her blog (BeeDrunken)
It's about snow - do check it out.I loved it.

thousandflower said...

In the past the seasons actually began on the halfway point between soltices and equinoxes, thus mid summer and mid winter days were actually in the middle of those season. Summer started on May
Day or Beltane and winter on Samhain or what is now Halloween and All Souls Day. I used to think it bizarre that winter began when the light started coming back and summer when it is starting to leave. I'm not sure when we changed the idea of season beginning on the soltices and equinoxes but the former makes a heck of a lot more sense to me.

To me it actually begins to feel spring like on Candelmas and fall like on Lammas. The change in light is obvious.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Weaver of Grass,

Raph suggested that I stick my neck out and come visit you. His head being in more rarified air than mine I thought I would follow his advice. I am so glad that I did.

It is great meeting others who like to explore the meanings of words and traditions.

Those same people, it almost seems to be a corollary, like playing with words to, so it is no surprise to me that you write such lovely haiku.

I quite like the haiku trio with the repeated word. I will have to try that sometime.

Enjoy your snow; I am jealous of it here in Hong Kong.

Tschüss,
Chris

(PS. I adore the Michael Faraday reference!)

patteran said...

That's a triumphant little exercise, Pat. It reads like a piece of folk wisdom. A lovely piece.

When I was at boarding school near Wetherby in the early '60s, we were taken on regular year-round camping expeditions to the moors around Malham Tarn. I remember one year our being invited into the house of the farm in whose fields we were camping and whose spring we were using. Their water was drawn from the spring and lighting was from oil lamps fitted to the walls. The farmer and his wife went into Pateley Bridge once a year and their grown-up son, who lived with them still, went in once a month for essential supplies. That farmhouse - fully serviced by mains power - is probably now a rural retreat for a Leeds barrister or surgeon!

Red Clover said...

I have never heard of candlemas...I like the idea. Not only for the symbolism, but the concept of more warmth...it's too cold this time of year.

Thanks for sharing the bits of poetry, and your haikus.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Interesting discussion about seasons, I would say that winter starting at Samhain makes more sense and feels right too. The birds start courting in February and we saw plenty of that on Saturday here despite being deep in snow now.

~PakKaramu~ said...

Pak karamu visiting your blog

elizabethm said...

Love the detail about candlemass weaver. it is cold and snowy but bright here so who knows what will come!

The Weaver of Grass said...

He'll still be there today in this freezing weather - don;'t give him a hot water bottle, Dom

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for sending us the snow, Greg - in fact thinking about it, this is one time when it has come from the opposite direction - Siberia - so we can send it on to you if you like.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Plenty of white stuff around Leenie and more forecast.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for visiting ksr - yes it has been a very long winter.

The Weaver of Grass said...

You should be so lucky, Heather - hope the snow still hasn;t reached you.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the comment Incorrigible - I love In the Bleak Midwinter too but I prefer the Harold Darke tune, do you know it? I agree about the placing of the seasons - i think it is time they were reorganised.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Helen - I agree candlelight is very relaxing when it isn't forever.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the compliment reader wil.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting Jen - there are a few people round here who lived life like that for many years - I think they really do appreciate mod cons.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Raph and Elizabeth - shall look at the two blogs you suggest this evening - thanks.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Thousand Flower - I think the light is probably the key to all this - certainly the birds think so.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wow, I never knew about Candlemas. This was so interesting. Here we have a chubby little groundhog who predicts our continuing winter or early spring! Between you and me, he rarely gets it right!

Teresa said...

Beautiful post in every way. Loved reading about the history of Candlemas Day and the little poems about it. Your blog is always so fascinating... do keep it up!