The snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, is the birthday flower for this day, the feast of Candlemas. It symbolises purity, hope in sorrow and friendship in adversity. A legend concerning the origin of the bloom relates how when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, snow began to fall. They were dejected as they had lived in the perpetual spring of the garden before that. An angel took pity on them and changed a few of the drifting snowflakes into snowdrops, a promise that Spring would soon return. Galanthus is from the Greek and means “milk-white flower”, while nivalis means “of the snow” in Latin.
In ancient Rome, the Februalia Festival honoured Demeter who searched for her daughter Persephone after she had been abducted by Pluto, the god of the underworld. Priests of Ceres (the Roman Demeter) paraded in her temples with lit candles, recreating the goddess’s search day and night for her daughter. This festival was absorbed into the Christian tradition as the festival of Candlemas, the pagan Demeter becoming syncretized with the Virgin Mary.
Candlemas celebrates the Virgin Mary going into the Temple of Jerusalem to ritually cleanse herself and present the infant to the rabbis, forty days after His birth . There the elderly Simeon prophesied that Christ would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” Hence the association of this feast with the lighting of candles. The image of the Virgin Mary was removed from its place in church and ritually cleaned. Snowdrops were scattered in its place. The following couplet associates snowdrops with Candlemas: The snowdrop, in purest white arraie
First rears her hedde on Candlemas daie.
Another couplet presages the abundance of the pea crop: On Candlemas Day, if the thorns hang a drop,
Then you are sure of a good pea crop.
If Candlemas day be bright and clear
There’ll be two winters that year.
But if Candlemas be mild or bring it rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
In a similar vein: If Candlemas Day bring snow or rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again;
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.
Candlemas Day, plant beans in the clay
Put candles and candlesticks all away.
The last reference was to the increasing light in the afternoons and evening, which allowed indoor work to be done at that time without the aid of candlelight.
In the USA, this day is celebrated as Groundhog Day, where groundhogs (woodchucks - Marmota monax) help to predict the weather for the year ahead. Supposedly, the groundhog is said to come out of its hole at the end of its hibernation. If the animal sees its shadow (i.e., if the weather is sunny) it is said to portend six weeks more of winter weather. An oracular tradition based on contraries similar to the British Candlemas seems to be the order of the day.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.