Candlemas

Candlemas is celebrated on February 2nd. It is 40 days after 25th December, and so it is believed to be the day that Mary was purified after giving birth and therefore the day that Jesus was first taken to the temple.

The date is known as Candlemas because in the 11th century all candles that were going to be used in church that year were blessed, and people took their own candles to church to be blessed also.

In Mexico the date is called Día de la Candelaria and it marks the end at the Christmas celebrations. The baby Jesus is taken from the Nativity scene and dressed in a special outfit before being taken to church to be blessed. According to tradition, whoever found the baby Jesus charm inside the Roscón on 6th January has to buy the tamales (chicken and meat wrapped in corn dough) for the party after the Candelaria ceremony.

February 2nd is also linked to many non-Christian festivals relating to hopes and prayers for a good harvest later in the year. It is the date of the pagan festival of Imbolc, the Roman festival of Lupercalia and a Mexican festival were the indigenous villages took their corn to be blessed before planting.

Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants

As a language teacher, I find these maps fascinating. Speaking another language opens doors to so many different cultures, and I’ve always loved travelling and visiting different countries and experiencing different ways of life.

Although the time when I could have happily emigrated has long gone, I can think of so many reasons why other people might choose to settle in a country other than where they were born: love, work, different opportunities….

Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants.

Noche de los Rábanos

Believe it or not, in Mexico there is a festival dedicated to radishes!

Known as the Noche de los Rábanos, the festival takes place on the 23rd of December in Oaxaca City. It begins at sunset and lasts for just a few hours, during which time visitors can wander through the streets admiring ornately carved radishes.

Nobody knows why this festival came into being, but it dates back to 1897 and was the idea of the mayor at that time. One suggestion is that it is reminiscent of when the Spanish brought radishes to Mexico in 16th century. Two local monks encouraged the locals to cultivate and sell them. To entice people to their market stalls, the sellers carved some of the radishes into interesting shapes.

Contestants of the modern day festival have to register months in advance to be able to take part. Although they can plan their designs well in advance, they have to be carved on the day itself because the radishes start to wilt after just a few hours.

Usually the carvings are of nativity scenes, but they don’t have to be and it’s not unusual to see dancers, animals and kings amongst other things.

The radishes used can weigh up to 3 Kilograms and are about 50 centimetres in length. Nowadays they are grown especially for this event.

 

 

Who is Ded Moroz?

Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost to give him the English version of his name, is the Eastern European version of Santa. He lives in the north east of Russia in a town called Veliky Ustyog and he delivers the presents to the children in Russia and some parts of Poland. He travels by troika pulled by three strong horses.

He hasn’t always been the good guy though. He used to be a winter demon, and people had to leave him presents of food and drink in return for him not freezing their crops. At some point he became more benign and is now the bringer, rather than the receiver, of gifts.

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Russia?Who was St Nicholas?, Who was Good King Wenceslaus?, Who was Babushka?