Back home the park is filled with flowers, cuttings, palm trees, succulents and miracle grow. The basket ball court is lined with stacked clay flower pots and mothers grip their children’s hands tightly so they won’t get lost in the crowd or elude their mother’s gaze behind an elephant ear where they’ve paused to sniff the roses.
It is Dia de la Candelaria, day of candle light and purification. Winter’s half way mark; time to look forward to Spring. In the United States, crowds anxiously haunt the groundhog’s shadow to see if Spring is soon in coming. In Mexico they wander the plant market and light the candles, gather to eat the tamales brought by whoever mined the baby from the king cake back in January, and take the nativity scene down.
We took down our nativity scene and most of the Christmas decorations a couple of weeks ago. We won’t be eating tamales, but I will light candles and my plants (still housebound for the moment) have cast off Winter’s shadow; I think they’ve decided they are ready for Spring.
I was curious to know more about how the different elements behind Dia de la Candelaria come together, looking forward to and kindling the light of Spring I understand, but what’s this about Mary’s purification 40 days after the birth of Christ and taking Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Why is this significant to Christians, when surely it must have been a Jewish temple?
I found lots of food for thought on this topic in a fascinating article at: www.thisischurch.com/christianinfo/candlemass.html
This well written article provides not only background to the Christian aspects of the holiday, but also extensively documents its pagan influences, alternate celebrations and why historically this has been such a woman centered holiday with special significance for new mothers. (The day was also known as the day of "Thanksgiving for Women after Childbirth"- scroll down to the section on the Churching of Women.)