The Catholic Church assimilated the pagan purification festival by linking it to the purification of the Virgin after the birth of Christ, "the light that brightens the darkness." Worshippers brought their year's supply of candles to the church to be blessed by the priest in a special Candle-Mass.
Candlemas continues the celebration of new beginnings. It was a day to prepare the fields for new plantings and to bless the fields to ensure a good harvest. In England, the holiday greens were taken out of the house, and if even a leaf was left behind, it was unlucky. "Out with the old, in with the new" is the theme for Candlemas. It's a good day to make commitments, renew pledges, and plant seeds for new growth.
In your herb garden, celebrate this day of new beginnings by turning over a piece of earth and repeating this ancient Anglo-Saxon plowing charm:
|Whole be thou Earth|
Mother of men.
In the lap of God,
Be thou growing.
Be filled full of fodder
For fare-needs of men.
Or plant some seeds of annual herbs in pots on a sunny windowsill, for later transplanting into your garden or deck containers. Some good choices: chives, dill, basil, cilantro.
February 2 is also groundhog day. However you wait for the light and Spring to return, celebrate!