#whatsthestory 3/2/14 Candlemas, Imbolc, Groundhog Day

decorated candles for Candlemas
As regular readers will know I am a practicing Christian- it's a big part of my life so every now and again among the comedy and inappropriateness I have a bit of a moment and share bits of my church life.

Sunday February 2 was the Christian festival, Candlemas. I lead a monthly Christian "craft and chat" house group so last week we thought it would be fun and relevant to decorate some candles.

A short explanation as to why this was a good week for a candle-related craft! We believe that when the baby Jesus was 40 days old, according to the Jewish custom of the time his parents presented him at the temple.  There He was recognised even as a tiny baby by elders Simeon and Anna. Simeon had been promised he would not die until he had seen the "Lord's Christ" and on realising that this baby was the Saviour he had been told about he took him in his arms and spoke the words of what we now call the Nunc Dimittis - The Canticle of Simeon.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

I love the words of this psalm - I have spoken them many hundreds of time throughout my whole life so they are familiar and comforting to me.

English: Saint Albans English church ( Copenha...
Saint Albans English church, Copenhagen Stained glass window (1890) showing the "Nunc dimittis"-scene: While being presented as a child in the temple the old Simeon recognises Jesus as the expected Messiah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Traditionally churches change all the old candles for new ones this week - the ones in the picture were some of the old ones from our church. (Many of our old candles with even a bit of useful life, or wax that can be recycled into new candles are donated to third world countries)

The members of my house group used oil pastels and glass paint squeezed from tubes to decorate their candles, and used a variety of implements from safety pins to chopsticks to engrave them. You'll notice a couple are a bit scribbly - our youngest member is 
not quite 4 and had a whale of a time decorating a number of candles!

We decided they would be OK to light for a short time, supervised but if you fancy having a go at this sort of decoration we thought it was probably best not to leave the candle burning unattended as we aren't sure how safe the glass paint or pastels would be if any decorated bit of candle melted into the flame!

Like many Christian festivals Candlemas coincides with Imbolc, a pagan festival featuring lighting of fires fire to mark the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

Groundhog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's also Groundhog Day where if the sun shines on the second day of February an animal would see it's shadow and there would be another six weeks of winter. People would watch for a groundhog, bear or badger depending on where they lived to use it as a weather prophet!

And there's a Candlemas rhyme to go with the legend: 

If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go, winter, and come not again.

Well it was quite bright in Hertfordshire this morning but I didn't spot any groundhogs so I'm hoping that means winter is nearly over - that rain in particular can definitely do one!