January is just about done – let’s celebrate!
Many people say January is like an endless month, but now the year is starting to gather some momentum, so let’s skip ahead to February, when we start with more festivities.
The first is a very ancient holiday, Candlemas. It’s full of traditions and even a bit of interesting food. Candlemas, on Feb. 2, was a celebratory feast to commemorate the presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. It included blessing the candles that would be used throughout the coming year for ceremonies and festivities.
It was also known as the earliest of the festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary. The light stretching further through the day signifies the first leap to spring. (Here lies the connection to our current rodent-centric customs surrounding Groundhog Day.)
Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas, which makes it the official, formal end to the holiday season. So, if Santa isn't off the roof yet, you'd better go get him.
Because it represents a transitional day, sailors believed that beginning a voyage at sea on this day would end in disaster.
Perhaps you followed the tradition of Epiphany on Jan. 6 that I wrote about in earlier columns. If so, whomever won the figurine in the King Cake should be hosting a party on Candlemas. (Just to be clear, even if you didn't win the figurine, you can still host a party if you feel like it.)
Whether you consider religious seasons or nature’s seasons, Feb. 2 has a noble history. When the famous groundhogs in various North American cities peek their noses out from their winter slumber, they also have a noble purpose. It’s not forecasting the weather – it’s to start mating season, so the young are old enough to forage by the time the snow melts.
You might say some of our food traditions try too hard to make a connection to a theme, as shown by the enthusiastic ideas listed below. But really, on a February day—be it mucky and mild or grey and snowy—why not boost your spirits by celebrating with good friends and good food?
Here are some fun ideas:
• In France, they celebrate Candlemas by eating crepes. The round shape symbolizes the moon’s new season. If you can flip a crepe successfully while holding a coin in the other hand you will see prosperity in the coming year (of course you will - you just kept the coin, didn’t you?!)
• In Spain, they celebrate by eating tamales, as the planting of the corn can begin as early as this. Even if you don’t want to be that elaborate in your cooking, a bit of cornbread or even a muffin could stand in as a nod for the tradition of farmers beginning their work of the season. (Do we even need another reason to have something with that coffee?)
• In Ireland, they put a loaf of bread on the windowsill as an offering for St. Birgid, who is associated with both a pagan goddess of fertility and a saint in County Kildare.
I hope these ideas lead to some inspiration of your own. If not, well, never fear. We have Mardi Gras coming up next, and that certainly deserves celebrating – whether the groundhog sees its shadow or not.
May whatever sun there is shine brightly on you and yours.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.