In our house, the tinsel and trimmings of Christmas have been packed away since the Baptism of the Lord – the official end of the Christmas season.
The mangers and their figurines are still in place though, objects of admiration on the fireplace mantel and the china closet where they’ll remain through Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.
Once celebrated far and wide as Candlemas – the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin – Feb. 2 traditionally drew the Christmas season to a close with the blessing of candles in church, processions throughout the town and great feasts featuring pancakes as the main course.
In these parts, Candlemas – which also marks the mid-point of winter – was long ago supplanted by Ground Hog Day in the town square but many people enjoy keeping some of the religious customs.
After attending a blessing of the candles more than a decade ago in St. Joseph Church in Toms River for a newspaper story, I developed an interest in learning more about the religious nature of the day.
It wasn’t long before we started incorporating some Candlemas customs into our seasonal celebrations.
Bringing candles to church each Feb. 2 for a blessing has become an annual ritual. Throughout the year, it’s comforting to know that the tapers are tucked away in the top drawer of the china closet.
Over the next 12 months, in times of illness and sorrow and yes, on dark and stormy nights as well, they’ll be brought out and prayerfully lit. Their glow will be enjoyed on happy occasions as well including birthday and anniversary celebrations and festive dinners marking First Holy Communions and Confirmations.
I also set tapers aside for use in mom’s crystal candelabra for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
This year, I plan to serve up pancakes for dinner — a culinary mainstay of Candlemas since Pope Gelasius I introduced the feast in 472. Historians attribute this connection to Gelasius’ hospitable nature: he was known to welcome tired pilgrims to Rome with a nice hot dish of pancakes!
Ingredients:1 1/4 cup light cream; 2 eggs; 3/4 cup all purpose flour; 2 tbsp. melted butter; a pinch of salt; 3 tbsp. sugar; butter or oil for frying.
Directions: pour the light cream into a bowl; add flour and salt (and sugar if desired) and mix until smooth. Blend in the eggs and melted butter; heat the butter or oil in a frying pan and pour in some of the batter. cook until the pancake is set and the bottom golden brown. Flip the pancake and cook on the other side.
Serve with jam, whipped cream, berries or other sweet toppings of your choice to taste.