What makes February 2nd an important date? Many of us would answer it is Groundhog Day, but there is more to it than that. In fact, Groundhog Day grew out of a much older Christian celebration known as “Candlemas” which falls on The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – February 2nd! In this lesson we will learn about this ancient Catholic tradition, the importance of candles in our churches and homes, and about Jesus’ identity as the light of the world.
Introduction and Opening Prayer
Note: Parents of young children, especially those with children still learning to read, are welcome to summarize and adapt lesson texts rather than reading them verbatim. Feel free to creatively adapt, supplement, and/or omit certain lesson materials to better meet your children’s educational level.
Christmas to Candlemas
The feast of the Presentation of the Lord takes places exactly 40 days after Christmas. It celebrates Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus to God the Father in the Temple 40 days after he was born. According to Jewish law, 40 days was the amount of time a woman needed to wait after giving birth before she could return to the Temple to pray.
As we have learned, this feast also goes by the name Candlemas. Candles came to be associated with this feast because of something that happened when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple. Watch the movie clip below and see if you can guess what it was. I’ll give you a hint, pay close attention to a prayer one of the characters says!
After watching the story of the presentation, can you guess how candles are involved? Remember, your hint was that it’s related to something said.
If you guessed it was because Simeon’s prayer, give yourself a pat on the back! The Bible tells us Simeon was a holy man to whom the Lord revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. When Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he knew God’s promise had been fulfilled. He was so happy he said the following prayer of praise to God:
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.
This idea of Jesus being a light to the nations is where candles come in. Candlemas is a very old tradition of the Church. For years, it was common practice for there to be candlelit processions in honor of the feast day. A Catechism (a book that contains the Church’s teachings) written for children in 1583 had this to say about why we carry candles on Candlemas day:
“Therefore on Candlemas day, by carrying a holy candle, we do well represent our Lady carrying Christ to the Temple in her arms.”
1.) If you were in the Temple when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus and you overheard Simeon, what would you have thought?
2.) What do you think Mary and Joseph felt listening to Simeon talk about their son?
3.) How does it make you feel to learn that the tradition of Candlemas goes back hundreds and hundreds of years?
How do we celebrate Candlemas today?
One of the most important parts of the celebration of Candlemas is the blessing of candles. In many parishes, the priest will bless all the candles the Church will use for the upcoming year as well as any candles that people bring to have blessed for their homes.
This year, St. Mary Magdalen will be doing a blessing of candles on Candlemas at the 9AM Mass on Tuesday, February 2nd. However Fr. Shaun is happy to bless candles on other days as well! A blessed candle would be a great addition to your family’s prayer space. When something is blessed, that means it is set aside for a holy purpose and to help remind us of God. Our home prayer space is a place where we receive blessings from God. That means we are also set aside for a holy purpose – to bring Jesus to the world!
Catholic Trivia: Did you know that candles used in Church are supposed to be at least 51% beeswax?
The Church has always seen bees as a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity. The wax that they produce symbolizes Jesus’ humanity, the wick inside symbolizes Christ’s soul, and the flame represents his divinity.
Read more: https://liturgyguy.com/tag/beeswax-candles/
One of the best things about being Catholic is the number of traditions we have throughout the year. There is always something to remember or celebrate! All around the world there are many different Candlemas traditions. Choose one or two from the list below for your family to try! Whichever you pick, make sure to share a picture in the comments.
France: Here, Candlemas is known as La Chandeleur and it is celebrated by making crepes. The crepe represents the sun slowly returning after a dark winter as spring approaches. There is a tradition that if you hold a coin in your writing hand and use the other to flip the crepe with the pan, you will have a wish come true if you are successful. Here is an easy crepe recipe that you can customize with whatever toppings or fillings you want!
Mexico: Here, el Día de la Candelaria is celebrated by making tamales, and bringing a statue of the child Jesus to Mass, just as Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple. Learn more about this tradition: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/02/01/what-candlemas-and-who-making-tamales-year
Puerto Rico: Candlemas is celebrated here with bonfires and singing. Your family could try bundling up for a winter bonfire and sing your favorite hymns.
Read more about Puerto Rico’s tradition here.
This lesson’s featured saint is St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland. While much of her life is shrouded in mystery because she lived 1500 years ago, we know that she was an important figure in the conversion of Ireland to Catholicism. Devotion to her has remained an important part of Irish culture. Her feast day is on February 1st, one day before Candlemas.
Making a St. Brigid Cross is a traditional way to celebrate her feast day. Learn how below:
Let Us Pray
In this lesson we learned about the prayer that Simeon prayed when he saw Jesus in the temple. That prayer is actually an important part of Night Prayer from something known as the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a prayer that all Catholic priests and religious have to pray every day, but that lay people are welcome to as well. It consists of 5 “hours” of prayer (they don’t take that long) spaced throughout the day. It is made up mostly of psalms from the Bible. Psalms are songs and poems written as prayers to God by the Jewish people.
The 5 hours in order are the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. You may know them by their traditional latin names: Matins, Lauds, the daytime hours (prime, terce, sext, none), Vespers, and Compline.
Every day during Night Prayer (Compline), we pray Simeon’s prayer known as the Canticle of Simeon or the Nunc Dimittis (latin for the first line “now let your servant depart in peace.”)
This week, try praying part of this traditional prayer. It can be hard to learn the entire thing so don’t feel pressured to do it all. Even if you just prayed Simeon’s prayer every day before bed it would be a great start! Below you can find the music for how to sing it, or the text if you prefer to read it.
Mr. Kenny and his roommate Ted were both seminarians (people studying to be priests) and had to pray Night Prayer as part of their formation. We recorded ourselves singing it so you could see an example of how it is traditionally done. If you want, you can watch the video and pray along with us.
Watch the following video to learn how to sing night prayer or pray along with us.
Live It Out Activities
In your Destined Journals, draw a picture of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple. At the bottom, write the phrase “A light to reveal you to the nations…”
Try your hand at making candles using the following options as your guide.
If making Candles is not your thing, try decorating them! All you need are markers and some extra candles, have fun and be creative!
Make sure to share pictures of anything you produce as part of this lesson. If you have ideas for ways other families can celebrate Candlemas, feel free to share them in the comments!
More to Explore
Read more about Candlemas and Groundhog Day
Read more about the history of votive candles.
Great Lesson! We are planning on making crepes & lighting the day by candlelight only on 2/2! 🕯🕯🕯
I love the candlelight only idea!
We enjoyed celebrating Candlemas!
We are planning on having some Tamales for dinner and also light a candle.
I think I may try making some tamales myself 🙂
The kids are looking forward to singing the “Night Prayer” this evening in our nightly prayers and they plan on making the Crayon Candle, once I can buy some new wicks. This should be a fun craft for all three to participate in making with each new layer. We plan on for each layer, saying something we are thankful for and lighting it was a family to celebrate all the blessings we have.
Awesome picture of everyone! I hope you have fun singing night prayer, that was something I always loved doing while I was in seminary, its a very peaceful way to end the day.
We are excited to make crepes and we will make a candle as well.
Let us know how the candle turns out, and don’t forget to have it blessed when you can! What type of candle are you thinking about making?
When I was serving as a pastor in Adrian, I loved the custom of tamales for the feast of the Lord’s Presentation (Feb. 2). The flipside was that back on the Epiphany (in early January) our parishioners would bake King’s cakes and serve them after Mass. The people who got a small statue of the Baby Jesus in their King’s cake had to make the tamales for everyone at church on February 2.
Many St. Mary Magdalen Parishioners who have attended various ministry team and council meetings over the years will be familiar with praying Night Prayer as the way the meetings would end. I’ve always appreciated the seasonal prayer-songs to Mary that conclude Night Prayer. While there is a Night Prayer for each night of the week, the Night Prayer for Sunday night can serve as a substitute for every night of the week. I know some people that choose to do that because they can memorize the words much like they would memorize the Lord’s Prayer or other familiar prayers.
We worked on candleholders. That was very interesting about the beeswax. Our youngest drew the temple presentation picture for our journal.
I think it would be fun to try to make a St. Brigid’s cross.
That is an awesome picture! I enjoyed researching the beeswax for the lesson. I had known that it was a requirement for Church candles, but I hadn’t known why or what it symbolizes!
Merry Candlemas everyone! What are you doing to celebrate today?
We really enjoyed doing the lesson today on Candlemas, especially the night prayers right before bedtime. 🙂 those ice candles look really neat! We want to get the supplies for the Saint Brigid crosses as well. Crepes for breakfast tomorrow!
I hope the crepes turned out well! If you make a St. Brigid cross, make sure to share a picture with us all 🙂
yes, the ice candles look cool!
We enjoyed learning about St Brigid as the patron saint of Ireland, as our family on both sides came right off the boat to NYC from Ireland. Thank you also for the Candlemas lesson!
You’re welcome! Do you know where in Ireland your family came from?
Forgot to post last week…we have been enjoying these lessons so much! We have decided to now add small portions of night prayer as part of our nightly family prayer time together. 🙂
That’s great news! Which portion did you decide to add?
We had a campfire and sang a few songs. It didn’t last very long because it’s so cold but it was fun.
I was hoping someone would try this, I always love a good campfire 🙂 Glad to hear you were able to brave the cold!
Good lesson! No one enjoyed the Crepes as much as mommy in our house!
Sounds like the crepes may have to be a permanent tradition for your family then 🙂
Tonight we went outside and lit the fireplace on our patio for a short time because it is cold out! We talked about some of my favorite old hymns with the kids and one stood out. The Prayer of St. Francis. The song of the prayer not only reminds me of church, but my time as a child in church and learning about God through my mother, father, and grandparents. It reminds me of observing how much my mother loved singing back then, and how much singing means to her in church as part of her faith. The message of becoming becoming a messenger of good to bring the positives always struck a chord with me and the portion of the song that refers to bringing light when their is darkness I feel fits well with our lesson tonight. Here is a quick picture of Audrey on the patio and the words to the song. 🙂
That is a beautiful way to witness to your faith. It is so cool how certain hymns become family classics. How great thou art was one of my great grandmothers favorite hymns and it has also become one of my Mom and I’s favorites as well!
I think you are right, the prayer of St. Francis is perfect for Candlemas.
We had a discussion of Candlemas around the dinner table! We also attempted crepes, but ended up with pancakes, lol We enjoyed your recitation of the Night Prayer…
Nothing wrong with pancakes, it all still tastes great! lol.
We really liked this lesson and enjoyed making the crepes!
We couldn’t get our picture to upload, but they were delicious 🙂
I’m glad they turned out well, hopefully it becomes a new tradition for the family!
We are planning on making the crepes. We enjoyed learning about St. Brigid.
Love the videos! It really pulls a point home!!
We are having trouble keeping up with the lessons so we missed the chance to do this one! We’re trying! Will be saving this lesson for sure to do next year with the kids. May even decide to make crepes and light the day by candle light only and celebrate it another day 🙂
We really enjoyed the lesson! We loved learning all about Candlemas. We are planning on having tamales soon too!