2nd of February – Candlemas

St. Lawrence, Archbishop of Canterbury, 619.

 

Born. – Bishop W. Thomas, 1613, Bristol. 
Died. – Sir Owen Tudor, 1461; Baldassarre Castiglione, 1529; Giovanni di Palestrina, 1594; Pope Clement XIII., 1769.

 

CANDLEMAS.

From a very early, indeed unknown date in the Christian history, the 2nd of February has been held as the festival of the Purification of the Virgin. From the coincidence of the time with that of the Februation or purification of the people in pagan Rome, some consider this as a Christian festival engrafted upon a heathen one, in order to take advantage of the established habits of the people; but the idea is at least open to a good deal of doubt. The popular name Candlemas is derived from the ceremony which the Church of Rome dictates to be observed on this day; namely, a blessing of candles by the clergy, and a distribution of them amongst the people, by whom they are afterwards carried lighted in solemn procession. It was still, about the close of the eighteenth century, customary in some places to light up churches with candles on this day.

At Rome, the Pope every year officiates at this festival in the beautiful chapel of the Quirinal. When he has blessed the candles, he distributes them with his own hand amongst those in the church, each of whom, going singly up to him, kneels to receive it. The cardinals go first; then follow the bishops, canons, priors, abbots, priests, &c., down to the sacristans and meanest officers of the church. According to Lady Morgan, who witnessed the ceremony in 1820 – ‘When the last of these has gotten his candle, the poor conservatori, the representatives of the Roman senate and people, receive theirs. This ceremony over, the candles are lighted, the Pope is mounted in his chair and carried in procession, with hymns chanting, round the ante-chapel; the throne is stripped of its splendid hangings; the Pope and cardinals take off their gold and crimson dresses, put on their usual robes, and the usual mass of the morning is sung.’ Lady Morgan mentions that similar ceremonies take place in all the parish churches of Rome on this day.

The festival, at whatever date it took its rise, has been designed to commemorate the churching or purification of Mary; and the candle-bearing is understood to refer to what Simeon said when he took the infant Jesus in his arms, and declared that he was a light to lighten the Gentiles. Thus literally to adopt and build upon metaphorical expressions, was a characteristic procedure of the middle ages. Apparently, in consequence of the celebration of Mary’s purification by candle-bearing, it became customary for women to carry candles with them, when, after recovery from child-birth, they went to be, as it was called, churched.

There is a curious custom of old standing in Scotland, in connection with Candlemas day. On the day it is, or lately was, an universal practice in that part of the island, for the children attending school to make small presents of money to their teachers. The master sits at his desk or table, exchanging for the moment his usual authoritative look for one of bland civility, and each child goes up in turn and lays his offering down before him, the sum being generally proportioned to the abilities of the parents. Six-pence and a shilling are the most common sums in most schools; but some give half and whole crowns, and even more. The boy and girl who give most are respectively styled King and Queen. The children, being then dismissed for a holiday, proceed along the streets in a confused procession, carrying the King and Queen in state, exalted upon that seat formed of crossed hands which, probably from this circumstance, is called the King’s Chair. In some schools, it used to be customary for the teacher, on the conclusion of the offerings, to make a bowl of punch and regale each urchin with a glass to drink the King and Queen’s health, and a biscuit. The latter part of the day was usually devoted to what was called the Candlemas bleeze, or blaze, namely, the conflagration of any piece of furze which might exist in their neighbourhood, or, were that wanting, of an artificial bonfire.

Another old popular custom in Scotland on Candlemas day was to hold a football match, the east end of a town against the west, the unmarried men against the married, or one parish against another. The Candlemas Ba’, as it was called, brought the whole community out in a state of high excitement. On one occasion, some years ago, when the sport took place in Jedburgh, the contending parties, after a struggle of two hours in the streets, transferred the contention to the bed of the river Jed, and there fought it out amidst a scene of fearful splash and dabblement, to the infinite amusement of a multitude looking on from the bridge.

Considering the importance attached to Candlemas day for so many ages, it is scarcely surprising that there is a universal superstition throughout Christendom, that good weather on this day indicates a long continuance of winter and a bad crop, and its being foul is, on the contrary, a good omen. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, quotes a Latin distich expressive of this idea:

‘Si sol splendescat Maria purificante,
 Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante;’

which may be considered as well translated in the popular Scottish rhyme:

‘If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
 The half o’ winter ‘s to come and mair;
 If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
 The half o’ winter ‘s gane at Yule.’

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

BISHOP INGELRAM OF GLASGOW DIES.

On Candlemas day [2nd of February] this year [1174], dies Ingelram, Bishop of Glasgow, sometime [Lord] Chancellor of Scotland; and in his place was elected Jocelin, Abbot of Melrose, 23rd of May, at Perth.

– Historical Works, pp.19-38.

[Ingelram] was previously Archdeacon of Glasgow and Chancellor of the kingdom. He resisted strenuously and effectually the pretensions of the Archbishop of York to metropolitan superiority, and died 2d February 1174.1

– Sketches, pp.29-70.

1  Chron. Mailr. 

 

IMPRISONED FOR A PRANK.

On the evening of the 2nd of February [1705] there had assembled a party in Edinburgh, whom drinking and excitement had so far carried away that nothing less than a dance in the open High Street would satisfy them. Among the party were Ensign Fleming of the Scots Brigade in the Dutch service, whose father, Sir James Fleming, Knight, had been Lord Provost in 1681; Thomas Barnet, a gentleman of the Horse Guards; and John Galbraith, son of a merchant in the city. The ten o’clock bell had been tolled in the Tron spire, to warn all good citizens home; and these gentlemen, with other bacchanals, were in full frolic at a part of the street where there was no light save such as might fall from the windows of the houses, when a sedan chair, attended by two footmen, one of whom bore a lantern, approached. 

In the chair was no less a personage than David Earl of Leven, General of the Scottish Ordnance, and member of the Privy Council, proceeding on his upward way to the Castle of which he was governor. It was perilous work to meddle with such a person in those times, but the ensign and his friends were in too reckless a mood to think of consequences; so when Galbraith, in his dance reeled against one of the footmen, and was warned off with an imprecation, Fleming and his friend of the Guards said, “It would be brave sport to overturn the sedan in the mud.” At once they assailed the earl’s servants, and smashed the lantern. His lordship spoke indignantly from his chair; then drawing his sword, Fleming plunged it into one of the footmen; but he and the others were overpowered and captured by the spectators. 

The young “rufflers,” on learning the rank of the man they had insulted, were naturally greatly alarmed, and Fleming dreaded the loss of his commission, though in a foreign army. After suffering a month’s imprisonment, they were glad to profess their sorrow publicly, on their knees before the Privy Council (as its record attests), and thus to obtain their liberty.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.191-198.

Feb. 2. [1705] – Under strong external professions of religious conviction, rigorous Sabbath observance, and a general severity of manners, there prevailed great debauchery, which would now and then come to the surface. On this evening there had assembled a party in Edinburgh, who carried drink and excitement to such a pitch, that nothing less than a dance in the streets would satisfy them. There was Ensign Fleming of a Scots regiment in the Dutch service (son of Sir James Fleming, late provost of Edinburgh); there were Thomas Burnet, one of the guards; and John, son of the late George Galbraith, merchant. The ten o’clock bell had rung, to warn all good citizens home. The three bacchanals were enjoying their frolic in the decent Lawnmarket, where there was no light but what might come from the windows of the neighbouring houses; when suddenly there approaches a sedan-chair, attended by one or two footmen, one of them carrying a lantern. It was the Earl of Leven, governor of the castle, and a member of the Privy Council, passing home to his aerial lodging. Most perilous was it to meddle with such a person; but the merry youths were too far gone in their madness to inquire who it was or think of consequences; so, when Galbraith came against one of the footmen, and was warned off, he answered with an imprecation, and, turning to Fleming and Burnet, told them what had passed. Fleming said it would be brave sport for them to go after the chair and overturn it in the mud; whereupon the three assailed Lord Leven’s servants, and broke the lantern. His lordship spoke indignantly from his chair, and Fleming, drawing his sword, wounded one of the servants, but was quickly overpowered along with his companions. 

The young delinquents speedily became aware of the quality of the man they had insulted, and were of course in great alarm. Fleming in particular being apprehensive of losing his commission. After a month’s imprisonment, they were glad to come and make public confession of penitence on their knees before the Council, in order to obtain their liberty.

– Domestic Annals, pp.379-389.

 

LONG LASTING EFFECTS OF REFORMATION.

By his energy Dr. Hay constructed a chapel in Chalmer’s Close, which was destroyed in 1779, when an attempt to repeal the penal statutes against Catholics roused a “No Popery” cry in Edinburgh. On the 2nd of February a mob, including 500 sailors from Leith, burned this chapel and plundered another, while the bishop was living in the Blackfriars Wynd, and the house of every Catholic in Edinburgh was sacked and destroyed.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.258-266.

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