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The Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas)




The final feast day in the season of Epiphany is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. The Church also calls it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemas. This feast lands on February 2nd, falling exactly 40 days after Christmas. It wraps up the full celebration of Jesus’ infancy narratives from Christmas through the Epiphany season. It is the final epiphany where Jesus is revealed as the “light for revelation to the Gentiles” and our Savior.


The Feast of the Presentation is one of the oldest feast days from the ancient Christian Church, dating back to at least the fourth century. The pilgrim Egeria recorded its celebration in Jerusalem in the 380s:

But certainly, the Feast of the Purification is celebrated here with the greatest honour. On this day there is a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; all go in procession, and all things are done in order with great joy, just as at Easter. All the priests preach, and also the bishop, always treating of that passage of the Gospel where, on the fortieth day, Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple, and Simeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Famuhel, saw Him, and of the words which they said when they saw the Lord, and of the offerings which the parents presented. 

The Presentation in Scripture


On this special day, we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Family to the temple in Jerusalem, as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. This event is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, where, according to the Law of Moses, a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth to a son. After this period, she was to present herself in the temple for purification and to present her firstborn to God (Exodus 13:12-15 and Leviticus 12). They were required to give an offering for the purification of Mary and the birth of their first child, and we are told that the offering was a pair of young pigeons, the offering of the poor.


Simeon and Anna


Luke then goes on to tell us that there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. The Holy Spirit had promised him he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Moved then by the Holy Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When he saw Jesus, he recognized him as the promised Savior. He took the infant Jesus into his arms, lifted him up to God, and uttered the most beautiful prophecy: 

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,According to Your word;For my eyes have seen Your salvationWhich You have prepared before the face of all peoples,A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,And the glory of Your people Israel.”(Luke 2:29-32)

The Song of Simeon has always had a prominent role in our liturgical worship. It is often referred to by its Latin name, Nunc Dimittis, which comes from the song’s opening words and means “Now you let depart.” It has been used since the 4th century in Christian services of evening worship such as Vespers (or Evensong) and Compline.


There also was a prophet named Anna in the temple. She was a widow and never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she thanked God and spoke about the child to all, looking forward to Jerusalem’s redemption.


Traditions and Celebrations Around the World


The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is the last feast day of the Christmas cycle. Depending on the country, some put away their Christmas decorations and burn their Christmas greenery on Twelfth Night. However, other Christians around the world put the last of their Christmas decorations away and burn their Christmas greenery on this day. 


Since Jesus was revealed as the “light of the world,” candles have played a considerable role in celebrating this feast. On this day, churches would bless all their candles for the following year. The congregants also gathered all their candles and brought them to the local church to be blessed in a special service called Candlemas (Candle Mass).


Germany

In Germany, families would hold a feast, and every family member would light a new candle before the manger of a nativity scene. After a time of prayer, the father would cut a branch from the Christmas tree and hand it to each child. The Christmas tree had been decorated with candies and nuts and the children were allowed to eat these goodies at this time.


Scotland

In Scotland, children would bring candles to school. The children also raised money, which they would contribute to buy sweets for the class. Whoever brought the most money was “Candlemas King or Queen” for the day. 


Mexico

In Mexico, the person who found the bean in the Epiphany cake, or Rosca de Reyes, became the godparent of Jesus on Candlemas. Their job was to dress the “niño dios” (an image of the Christ child in the form of a doll) with richly decorated clothes. They would then bring the doll to church to be blessed. A large family feast followed. The person who had found the bean in their Rosca de Reyes on Epiphany was in charge of making all of the tamales for the Candlemas feast! 


France

In France, the day is called La Chandeleur, and the traditional food is crêpes. The crêpes, with their golden color and circular form, recall the sun’s shape, evoking spring’s return after a harsh and cold winter. While making the crêpes, people traditionally hold a coin in their dominant hand and a crêpe pan in the other. They flip the crêpe into the air, and if they catch the crêpe in the pan, their family will be prosperous for the rest of the year. 


England

In England, Candlemas was the day when people predicted the weather. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of the weather on Candlemas Day. 

An old English song goes:

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

This practice led to the folklore behind “Groundhog’s Day,” which falls on Candlemas Day and is celebrated in the United States and Canada.


 Ways to Celebrate


  • Read Luke 2:22-40 

  • Since Jesus is the light of the world, do something with candles: make candles, light all of the candles in your house, or put all of your candles on your dining room table and have a feast.

  • Let whoever got the bean in the Epiphany cake dress the baby Jesus figurine you have in your nativity set.

  • Have a huge tamale feast!

  • Eat crêpes!


Candlemas Crêpes


Ingredients:


FOR THE CRÊPES

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/8 cup water

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • dash of salt


FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 2-4 tbsp powdered sugar (to taste)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • fresh strawberry slices


Instructions:


FOR THE CRÊPES

  1. Whisk all the ingredients, except the flour, together. Add in the flour, a little bit at a time, whisking just until the flour has been mixed in.

  2. Let the crêpe batter rest for 10 minutes. Then, give the batter a quick whisk again before using.

  3. Grease a non-stick, 6” skillet with unsalted butter and heat over medium heat. Pour about 2-3 tablespoons worth of batter into the pan and tip the pan from side to side to get the batter to spread out throughout the pan.

  4. Cook each side of the crêpe for 30 seconds before gently loosening up the edges with a large spatula. If it lifts, then the crêpe is ready to be flipped. If it doesn’t lift up very well, give it 10 to 15 more seconds and try again. Gently lift the crêpe out of the pan, then flip over into the pan and cook the other side for another 10 to 15 seconds; remove to cool.


FOR THE FILLING

  1. Simply beat the heavy whipping cream with a hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, then beat until stiff peaks form. 

  2. Spread a layer of cream onto each crêpe, add sliced strawberries, and then roll the crêpe like you would a wrap.


Recipe courtesy of Lavender and Lovage.

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