The Candlemas is a Christian festival celebrated every 2nd February, 40 days after Christmas. The Candlemaster commemorates Jesus’ presentation to the Temple, the Jewish tradition that every male firstborn in the family be brought to the Temple 40 days after birth to be consecrated to the Lord. This 40-day period corresponds to the period during which mothers were considered impure by Jewish law after giving birth, and it was therefore forbidden for them to go to a place of worship. Once this time had elapsed, the mothers could go to the temple to make an animal sacrifice and thus recover their purity. The day that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, the Gospel of Luke tells that a man named Simeon came there, pushed by the Holy Spirit and the promise that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. He took Jesus in his arms and said, « Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation. Hail that you have prepared before all peoples, Light to enlighten the nations. And glory of Israel, your people. « . It is therefore this specific religious event that the faithful remember at the Candlemas. However, it seems that this festival has older origins, and could be the resumption of a Roman rite, the amburbiales, related to the purification of the city. This party is associated with pancakes that are cooked on this occasion. This practice associating Festival of Enlightenment with the consumption of a « fat » dessert is also found in the Jewish tradition of eating donuts during the Chanukah (Judaism Festival of Lights) festival. In addition, when cooking the first pancake, it is common to blow it several times in order to ward off bad luck for the year after. An explanation tends to say that the round shape and the color of the pancakes recall that of the sun, which is consistent with the beginning of the lengthening of the days. Also, this period coincides with the period of the winter sowing, the excess of flour was used for making pancakes. Pancakes will become the symbol of this family celebration.
« Pancake Tuesday » or « Shrove Tuesday » is the name of the pancake day in Ireland. But, strangely, this day does not correspond to Candlemas but to Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras precedes Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. During Lent, Christians refrain from eating meat, eggs, milk, fat or sweet things and drinking alcohol (and also smoking).
Before this period of abstinence, it is customary in Christian countries to party until 7 days before. This translates, in particular, by Carnival, pancakes, donuts…
In Ireland, this day is not a day of extravagance as we know it. Nobody disguises himself and nothing special happens in the streets (no decoration, parade …). It was a day reserved for the family. Women were exempted from working in the afternoon to make pancakes. It’s not at all the case today … The children went from house to house singing or reciting a poem in exchange for pancakes. It does not exist anymore. Traditionally, the first 3 crepes made were sacred. They were signed with the cross, sprinkled with salt to drive away the Devil and put them aside
USA and Canada:
In addition, in the United States and Canada, February 2 is associated with another feast, Groundhog Day, where it is a tradition to see the reaction of a groundhog to the exit of his burrow. If it comes out and does not see its shadow (because of clouds in the sky), it is a sign that winter will end soon. On the contrary, if it sees its shadow (because of the clear sky), it will mean that the winter will last another 6 weeks.
In Australia, the Candlemas is celebrate in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Mardi Gras is a festive season, which marked the end of the Seven Fat Days. The Mardi Gras is after by Wednesday of Ashes and Lent, we have during the long-of-old-European age. It is celebrated 47 days before Easter. The Mardi Gras that precedes it is therefore a party where everyone does what he likes. During this party, we eat donuts, pancakes, meats, eggs, fries. The Mardi Gras is the last day of Carnival, so it’s the last day to disguise.