February 2, 2021
Today has many names – Midwinter, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation.
First: I didn’t know that February 2nd marked the mid-point of the season. The confusion comes from the fact that the carol – In the Bleak Midwinter – is part of the Christmas repertoire. And even though it makes no sense to reference the middle of winter in late December, I went with the timeline – it’s a Christmas carol. But when I calculate the length of winter 2020 – there are 89 days – February 2nd is day 43 and close enough to claim the mid-point.
Second: Groundhog Day is famous for Punxsutawney Phil and the Bill Murray, Andie McDowell movie. The famous Pennsylvanian rodent is an American icon and this year predicted six more weeks of winter; the movie wonderfully captured 1990s America – stupid, harmless, oblivious, repressed …
Third: I first came across the term Candlemas, in the 1970s, in the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz. The author did an amazing job blending Catholic monasticism and Church of England traditions in a surreal feudal landscape. The main characters are hybrid monks with great powers and Candlemas was a day to call up strong magic.
Wikipedia says the following about the day. (The Mother Church sarcasm and calling-out the hundred-year olds are all mine.)
Candlemas, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. In accordance with Leviticus: a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy’s circumcision. And using Holy Mother Church’s trumped up calendar, it falls on February 2.
On Candlemas, many Christians, (especially those over 100) especially Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics also bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.
Fourth: The Andrea Mantegna painting of The Presentation At the Temple is one of my favorites.
– the child is swaddled in a fassa – an old Calabrese word. I still remember my sister being wrapped up when she was first born; (we’re talking 1955) my mother claimed it was to insure that her legs would grow straight
– the frame is part of the painting – notice how the mother’s elbow rests on the bottom horizontal
– the line halos are the best
– the middle figure – who the hell is he; who pissed in his corn-flakes (bet you it’s Joseph)
– and, nothing like dressing up a group of humble, devout Jews as Italian Renaissance aristocrats (I want the rose robe Simeon is wearing – look at that embroidery; even his skull-cap would be OK on a cold winter night.)
1. The winter landscape, at the top, is by Peder Mørk Mønsted.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is of the small church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta in Aprigliano.