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By Susan Hines-Brigger


Blessing the Candles
Wait, There's More!
For Teens: Make Your Own Candle
For Kids: Do You See Your Shadow?

Following the births of both our children, my husband and I had barely walked in the door when the visitors started arriving. Granted, they all meant well, but it would have been nice to have had time alone as a family.

Once Mary returned home after giving birth to Jesus, she had that kind of time, thanks to Jewish law. At that time, a woman was considered unclean for a period of 40 days after the birth of a son and 80 days after the birth of a daughter. On the 40th (or 80th) day, the woman was to take the child to the Temple to offer a sacrifice, and to have herself purified. The feast was originally known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary, but was changed to emphasize the more significant event of Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple.

So, if you count 40 days from December 25, you arrive at February 2—the day we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus. When he was presented to Simeon, who was a just man, Jesus was told that he was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

Blessing the Candles

On this same day, the Church also celebrates the Blessing of the Candles, formerly known as Candlemas—the Mass of the candles. Then the candles that will be used throughout the year are blessed.

As you know, candles are a very important part of Catholic ceremonies. They symbolize that Christ is the light of the world, just as Simeon had said.

The custom of Candlemas also, however, has origins—as do many Christian traditions—in pagan roots. Candles were important symbols to the ancient Romans. Rather than try to eradicate the pagan practices, Christian leaders simply adapted them over time to give them more religious significance.

Wait, There's More!

So you think two different events observed on one day is enough? Think again. The yearly observance of Groundhog Day also has its origins in Candlemas.

Early Christians in Europe believed that, if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day and a hedgehog saw its shadow, then there would be six more weeks of bad weather.

When Germans settled in Pennsylvania, they discovered groundhogs in abundance and decided they would make a fine substitute for hedgehogs.

Now that you’ve got three reasons to celebrate in the middle of winter, here are some suggestions for how:

• Create a family candle in honor of Candlemas Day. Decorate it and place it in the center of the table where you eat your meals. In the book Holy Bells and Wonderful Smells (St. Anthony Messenger Press), author Jeanne Hunt recommends creating a “family victory candle” that is lit every time a family member experiences a victory, such as a good grade, making a sports team or getting a promotion.

• Read the Bible story of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38).

• Make some popcorn and watch the 1993 movie Groundhog Day (A-2, PG), starring Bill Murray, together as a family.

• Have a fun family wager on whether or not Punxsutawney Phil, the official groundhog of the United States, will see his shadow. Phil and his successors have been making predictions on Groundhog Day since 1887. For information on Groundhog Day and Phil, visit

Next Month: St. Paddy's Day



For Teens: Make Your Own Candle

It seems that everywhere you look today you can find candles. They come in all shapes and sizes and fragrances. So why not add your own design to the mix?

Since there’s usually not as much to do during the winter months, invite friends over some weekend night for a candle-making party. Just make sure you get an adult’s permission beforehand. You might also want to ask that adult to join in the fun!

Most craft stores sell all the necessary ingredients for making candles, such as paraffin and wicks. But don’t forget to include things that are free of charge, such as leaves, pinecones, old crayons, even photocopies of your favorite pictures, to embellish your candle. You can also use scented oils to give your candle a distinct fragrance.

As for how to make the candles, check for candle-making books at your local library, ask for instructions at the craft store or do a search on the Internet.

For Kids: Do You See Your Shadow?

We know that on February 2 Punxsutawney Phil will be looking for his shadow, but what about yours? Go outside and see if you can see your shadow. If you do, maybe that means six more weeks of winter. If not, then spring could be just around the bend. Mark down whether you saw your shadow and then check to see if your prediction comes true.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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