Hardly anyone knows or recognises this day in the calendar any more, but I do remember it being an important day in our village when I was a child. It was the day when all the candles were renewed in the church and there are various rhymes about the state of the weather for the rest of the Winter being judged by what the weather is like on Candlemas day.
In Celtic and Roman times the second of February was known as the Festival of Lights and - like so many other festivals - the Christians adopted it as their own and used it to celebrate the purification of Mary after giving birth to Jesus.
Now there's an interesting thing. How may of you remember the "churching of women" after giving birth? I wonder when it died out. Certainly it was still practised when I had my son fifty two years ago. As a non-Christian I did not go through the practice, but I remember people who did and I remember elderly villagers who would not allow mothers and their babies into the house until the mother had been 'churched'. Anybody able to enlighten us about this?
The real fact about Candlemas of course is that it is the day which is exactly half way between the shortest day and the Spring equinox. It was the day on which farmers assessed just how much fodder for the animals they had left - the chances were they would need it at least until the equinox so it was an important assessing day.
Do any of my UK readers watch 'Lark Rise to Candleford'? The farmer loves it and so do I. I really enjoyed the books many years ago - they are a real social history of the period and although the TV series tends to romanticise the whole thing there are still elements of it which make me think how lucky we are. Last week the farmer spotted an error when the villagers sat on hay bales to celebrate a pig feast. Not many weeks previously we had watched them harvest the hay crop with scythes, put it into stooks and make a haystack - bales were not invented in those days.
That leads me to another error spotted by a Times reader in 'The King's Speech', when the royal couple were travelling by taxi and eating marshmallows. According to the Times letter marshmallows were not invented and in any case the Queen's favourite sweets were violet and rose creams and she never travelled anywhere without them. (How did she keep so slim I wonder.)
I suppose these little errors make life interesting - as does the fact that festivals like Lady Day (April - when hiring and firing was done), Candlemas and the like have disappeared. Has anything taken their place, I wonder?