Today, we are so lucky to have another guest post, this time from Jennet of Feathered Nest Studio. Read all about how her family celebrates Candlemas!
Candlemas, which takes place on February 2, is a day of many things. It is the day candles are blessed in church for the coming year. It is the end of the Christmas season and was the day in Victorian times when Christmas decorations were taken down. It is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, when Simeon called Christ “a Light,” making it a day filled with representations of light and all that means. In some places, the first snowdrops are peaking up, marking this day as a representation of hope and a reminder of new life to come.
A traditional activity for Candlemas is to make candles. Simple rolled beeswax candles are a great project to do with little ones. The honeycomb texture feels lovely and smells great. It is also a good exercise in patience, as you need to warm the sheets first in your hand to make them slightly soft and then roll carefully so they don’t crack. Older children would enjoy helping you make dipped or poured beeswax candles. A verse like the one below is great to recite while making the candles (I don’t know the original source for this verse, so if you do, please let me know!):
“A candle’s but a simple thing, it starts with just a bit of string. But dipped and dipped with patient hand, it gathers wax upon the strand. Until complete and snowy white, it gives at last a lovely light. Life seems so like that bit of string, each deed we do a simple thing. Yet day by day on life’s strand, we work with patient heart and hand. It gathers joy, makes dark days bright and gives at last a lovely light.”
This year for Candlemas, we are going to make rolled beeswax candles in red, pink, and natural colours that we will then use for St. Valentine’s Day. We will also talk about St. Brigid, whose feast day is February 1. I’ll attend a noon-time Eucharist at church for the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and will have some of our candles blessed. For me, though, the heart of the day is “being a light in the world,” just as Christ was, just as Simeon saw in Him that day in the Temple. How can we better grow that light? The “Grow My Light” garden activity below is the perfect way to focus on that question.
Start by picking a flower pot/dish. I chose this glass oval bowl because it will fit nicely on a windowsill (and I picked it up at my church thrift shop for 50 cents!). If your pot doesn’t have holes in the bottom for drainage, you may want to add a small layer of pebbles to the bottom of the pot first, then fill your pot with soil. For added sparkle, you could sprinkle on some glass gems to help reflect the light of the candles you will be adding.
Now think about what it means to let your (metaphoric) light shine into the world. How can you make that light shine brighter and stronger? What traits could be enhanced that would make you a greater gift to the world? Write these words/traits down on little pieces of paper or, if you want to do what I did, wood burn the words on wooden discs. On one side of each of three wood discs, I wood-burned the trait (kindness, patience, and compassion) we picked to focus on. On the other side, I wood-burned a little leaf and the word “Grow.”
Dig a hole in the soil and bury your paper or wood disc. You could say something like “Let patience grow stronger in me, and my light shine brighter” as you do this. Repeat with each of your words until all are gently covered by the soil.
When all of your words have been “planted,” place candles in the soil and light them, reciting a favourite verse that fits the day. A couple ideas are below. We also added in our St. Brigid figure I made, since St. Brigid is celebrated on February 1. (St. Brigid of Kildare is a 5th century patron saint of Ireland who founded the first nunnery in Ireland. Tradition says that her nuns kept a sacred flame always burning, to remind people that Christ is the light of the world.)
Possible verses to recite:
- Little candle burning bright, you are such a pretty sight. Show us all your shining light, little candle burning bright.
- God make my life a little light within the world to glow, a little flame that burneth bright wherever I may go. (Matilda Betham-Edwards, 1836-1919)
- St. Brigid’s Blessing (by Sr. Genevieve Sheedy): St. Brigid, Mary of Ireland, ask for us all today, the courage to do God’s bidding whatever the world may say. The grace to be strong and valiant, the grace to be firm and true, the grace to be faithful always to God, to Mary, and you.
Your Candlemas garden can then be used as a Lenten garden by planting grass seed in the soil on Ash Wednesday. By Easter, you should have beautiful green stalks of grass come to life. And hopefully, throughout Lent, you have worked on growing those traits you picked to focus on.
Jennet is a mom, Episcopalian, artist/graphic designer, art teacher, parish coordinator, and firm believer that children should have ample time to play, create, & imagine. She lives in Upstate NY with her family and wishes for an old barn to convert into a studio and teaching space. Visit her at featheredneststudio.com.