Issue 95 is out now
Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

06th January 2012

Lou Lou Pulford celebrates the ancient festival of light that marks the midpoint of winter. Candlemas began as the ‘feast of lights’ and marks the halfway point between the shortest day and the Spring Equinox. It was a time for celebrating the life-giving power of the sun as it began to gain in strength after the long, dark, cold months of winter.

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

06th January 2012

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

06th January 2012

“Lighting candles at this time was also a way of signalling hope in the days when winter meant isolation”

A symbol of hope
Lighting candles at this time was also a way of signalling hope in the days when winter meant isolation; when friends and families may have been cut off from each other by snow or rain or long stretches of dark country road. To see the candle lights flickering warmly in houses far away, reminded people that they were not alone, that the sun would soon provide the warmth and light that would stir the soil and make the crops grow and bring people out of doors and into each other’s company once more. In the Christian calendar, the festival marks the official end of the Christmas season and celebrates Jesus’ presentation at the temple and Mary’s purification after the birth. It was customary for Jewish women to spend forty days after the birth of child in rest and confinement, recovering and being cared for by mothers, sisters and friends. At the end of the forty days, thanks would be given for the child with a offering at the temple, the child would be presented to God and the woman ritually cleansed and purified.

Embracing the light
Candlemas today is a time of strength and renewal, a time for embracing light in darkness and letting it touch our lives as we enter the new year and a new season of hope. It is a time for women to come together in strength and love, to celebrate our gifts, to give thanks for our blessings, and to make new resolutions for the future. Try these ideas for celebrating Candlemas with family and friends.

Meditation on light
Darken the room and light a single white candle. Focus on the flame, it is strong and pure and the dark around it cannot overcome it. Imagine its light in your heart. Let it illuminate all your strengths and weaknesses, let the light bless you, cleanse you and purify you. Imagine the light shining out from you into a dark world, through kind words, gentle actions, gifts of love. Let the light fill you and pour out from you. When you are ready, light all the candles in the room, let their light fill the darkness and celebrate.

Treasure mapping
Candlemas is a time of renewal; the rebirth and strengthening of the sun, the reawakening of plants that have lain dormant over the long winter. It is the perfect time to make resolutions, to de-clutter and to focus again on our dreams, aspirations and goals for the new year. Creating a treasure map is a great way of focusing your mind on the things you would like to achieve, it’s a wonderful activity for a girls’ night in.

YOU WILL NEED: a stack of old magazines for cutting; glue; scissors; coloured marker pens; roll of cheap paper eg: brown wrapping paper or plain lining paper Tear off a large rectangle of paper for each person. The way you structure your map is up to you but a good way to start is to focus on the things in your life that you love and value; your achievements, loved ones, blessings. Cut out or draw pictures or symbols to represent these things and stick them at the centre of your map. Next focus on the short term things you would like to achieve; perhaps a holiday, more time with your family, a new diet or hobby. Place these things branching out from the centre, wherever they seem most appropriate. Lastly focus on your long term goals and dreams, where would you like to be in five or ten years time? What do you need to do to get there? Place these things at the very edges of your map. Once your map is created you can come back to it at different points during the year to refocus or to add new dreams and visions as they arise.

“Candlemas is the time when all the new candles that are going to be used in the home for the coming year are blessed”

Candle making
Candlemas is the time when all the new candles that are going to be used in the home for the coming year are blessed. These candles are very simple to make and children will enjoy helping too. YOU WILL NEED: beeswax; double boiler; 20cm lengths of wicking (ordinary string will not work); lots of old newspaper; heatproof mat • Cover a work surface with newspaper and place a heatproof mat on top. • Gently heat the wax in the double boiler until it has melted then transfer the boiler to the heatproof mat. • Carefully dip the wicking into the melted wax and remove it quickly. Don’t be tempted to leave it in more than a few seconds otherwise the wax melts off the wick instead of sticking to it! • Wait a few seconds for the wax to cool, then dip the wick again. • Keep dipping and cooling until the candle is as thick as you require it then trim the wick to a sensible length.

Making a blessing tree
This ancient festival of light is not only a time for focusing on the future, but also for remembering and appreciating all the good things we already have. The whole family can get involved in this by creating a ‘blessing tree’

YOU WILL NEED: selection of branches; medium sized plant pot; soil; coloured sugar paper; scissors; ribbon or string Arrange the branches in the pot and firm the soil around them to hold them in place. Cut leaf shapes from the coloured paper and make a small hole in one end of each, using a sharp pencil. Thread a short length of ribbon through each leaf and tie them to the branches of the tree. When all the leaves have been tied on, the whole family can gather around the tree. Encourage everyone to think about the good things in their lives that they would like to give thanks for; these might be general things like food, clothes, a home, friends and family, or they might be more specific. Invite each person to write their ‘thank you’ on a leaf of the tree. You could keep the tree going for a week and invite friends and visitors to add their thankyous too. At the end of the week, gather around the tree again and read the leaves, taking time to give thanks for each blessing.

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