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Candlemas (Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Feast of the Purification of Mary)

Perhaps one of the oldest feasts in the Christian church, the Feast of the Presentation has been celebrated since at least the 4th century AD. Saint Bishop Methodius of Patara, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint Amphilochius of Iconium, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint John Chrysostom all wrote sermons for the feast. The feast is set for forty days after the Nativity of Jesus as Mosaic law dictated in the Torah that a mother who had given birth to a boy was unclean for seven days and was to remain for three and thirty days in the "blood of her purification". At the end of the 40 days, the mother was to be purified by attending a ceremony of ritual purification (Leviticus 12:2-8).

As the 40 days fall after Nativity, the feast celebrates both the Purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Luke, 2:22-39 tells of these events. It also tells of Saint Simeon and Saint Anna who were both waiting for the birth of Christ at the Temple.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,

The term Candle Mass (Candlemas) began being used when priests would bless beeswax candles through the year. These candles are used throughout the year for liturgical purposes and the laity often brings their own for blessing as well.

In France, Belgium, and Romandy, Candlemas is known as La Chandeluer and is often called the day of crepes. The tradition of Crepes can be traced back to Pope Gelasius I who gave pancakes to pilgrims arriving in Rome. In Luxembourg, the tradition of Liichmessdag is centered on children who travel the streets in the afternoon and evening holding lighted lanterns and singing "Léiwer Härgottsblieschen".

In Mexico, the child Jesus is often dressed and adored and families eat together with tamales. Candlemas is linked to Epiphany in that whomever found the child in the rosca de reyes (king cake) will determine who is responsible for organizing Candlemas. The founder of the Child is named the godfather and will dress the nino dios on Candlemas with decorated clothes and bring it to the Church for a blessing. Immediately afterwards is a large family meal of tamales (believed to be linked to the ancient Mexican practice of offering maize).

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