Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus was met by Anna and Simeon. Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a Light to the World.
Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren't allowed to worship in the temple. At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again.
The festival is called Candlemas because this was the day that all the Church's candles for the year were blessed.
On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home.
Like some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from Paganism.
In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the mid point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox.
Some people lit candles to scare away evil spirits on the dark winter nights.
People believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.
Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.