La Chandeleur

La Chandeleur (Candlemas), the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (or Purification of Our Lady) celebrated on February 2, once marked the end of the Christmas season. Mardi Gras, on the other hand, marks the end of the carnival season before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Nevertheless, there are some interesting links between the two celebrations as celebrated among Acadians.

From Chéticamp:

La Chandeleur - Candlemas: Years ago, the feast of Candlemas, on February 2, began in church with the blessing of the candles and was followed by a supper and an evening of music and dance. A few days prior to February 2, a group of people from the community would go from house to house in search of food for Candlemas. This group was led by an individual dressed up for the occasion and holding a long cane decorated with ribbons of various colours. Where food was given out, the group would dance the Escaouette as a way of thanking the householders. We called this activity 'courir la Chandeleur' (running the Candlemas). On the day in question, people would get together at a pre-designated location, where they would have supper and spend the evening singing and dancing. Today, all that is left is the supper and dance in a community hall.

Compare with the Courir de Mardi Gras as celebrated in Eunice, Louisiana.

Mardi Gras in rural Southwestern Louisiana draws on traditions that are centuries old. Revelers go from house to house begging to obtain the ingredients for a communal meal. They wear costumes that conceal their identity and that also parody the roles of those in authority. They escape from ordinary life partly through the alcohol many consume in their festive quest, but even more through the roles they portray. As they act out their parts in a wild, gaudy pageant, they are escaping from routine existence, freed from the restraints that confine them every other day in the year.

In all of the Mardi Gras run of today, the capitaine maintains control over the Mardi Gras, as the riders are known. He issues instructions to the riders as they assemble early in the morning and then leads them on their run. When they arrive at a farm house, he obtains permission to enter private property, after which the riders may charge toward the house, where the Mardi Gras sing, dance, and beg until the owner offers them an ingredient for a gumbo. Often, the owner will throw a live chicken into the air that the Mardi Gras will chase, like football players trying to recover a fumble.

In addition to the Mardi Gras on horseback, some ride on flatbed trailers pulled by trucks or tractors. By mid to late afternoon, the Courir returns to town and parades down the main street on the way to the location where the evening gumbo will be prepared.

Some links:

Acadia

France

Stories

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino

When I was a kid my grandmother used to dress me on this night and take me to visit all of our cousins… I was disguised so she would tell me not to say a word and they had to guess who I was. I had a great time of it. I loved my grandmother very much and spent lots of time with her and this was one of the fun times ;o)

Other than that, I’ve not seen Candlemas celebrated here. I guess my grandmother was trying to carry on a tradition that was quickly disappearing and that has long been gone since.

A friend from Marseille writes:

Crepes are supposed to be prepared ... before sunset  -- after it brings bad luck (if you follow the tradition).

You are supposed to hold a golden coin in one hand and flip the crepes with the other. If you miss it brings bad lack. Crepes were not necessarily eaten all over the country some regions were having beignets instead of crepes. There is not a good translation for beignet but think about a donut, not the
shape but the process of being fried if you like.

With my parents we were going to Mass and then my mother was preparing the crepes, we never really flipped them because we always missed ! and they ended up in the kitchen floor so after some attempts we gave up ! We were having family and friends over. Now, besides the religious aspect of the Chandeleur, in our days, people take this opportunity to spend some fun time together. Everybody has his or her chance with a frying pan to flip them and when they are ready everybody gather around the table to eat them. You can accompany them with cider (alcohol one from Brittany the best !). In Brittany, the flour quality is very different from other places crepes are brownish and really thick while my mother's crepes were really thin. Each region in fact has its own specialty or tradition regarding crepes.

You should try with your family it is really fun day. You accompany them with sugar, different sorts of jellies and melted chocolate. We are, in fact going on Saturday to her friend of mine to celebrate the tradition!

Liturgy for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Blessing of Candles and Procession

The people gather in a chapel or other suitable place outside the church where the Mass will be celebrated. They carry unlighted candles. The priest and his ministers wear white vestments. The priest may wear the cope instead of the chasuble during the procession.

While the candles are being lighted, this canticle or another hymn is sung:

The Lord will come with mighty power,
and give light to the eyes of all who serve him, alleluia.

The priest greets the people as usual, and briefly invites the people to take an active part in this celebration. He may use these or similar words:

Forty days ago we celebrated the joyful feast of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we recall the holy day on which he was presented in the temple, fulfilling the law of Moses and at the same time going to meet his faithful people. Led by the Spirit, Simeon and Anna came to the temple, recognized Christ as their Lord, and proclaimed him with joy.

United by the Spirit, may we now go to the house of God to welcome Christ the Lord. There we shall recognize him in the breaking of bread until he comes again in glory.

Then the priest joins his hands and blesses the candles:

Let us pray.

God our Father, source of all light,
today you revealed to Simeon
your Light of revelation to the nations.
Bless + these candles and make them holy.
May we who carry them to praise your glory
walk in the path of goodness
and come to the light that shines for ever.

Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Or:

God our Father, source of eternal light,
fill the hearts of all believers
with the light of faith.
May we who carry these candles in your church
come with joy to the light of glory.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

He sprinkles the candles in silence.

The priest then takes the candle prepared for him, and the procession begins with the acclamation:

Let us go in peace to meet the Lord.

During the procession, the following canticle or another hymn is sung:

Christ is the light of the nations
and the glory of Israel his people.

Now, Lord, you have kept your word:
let your servant go in peace.

Christ is the light of the nations
and the glory of Israel his people.

With my own eyes I have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people.

Christ is the light of the nations
and the glory of Israel his people.

A light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Christ is the light of the nations
and the glory of Israel his people.

As the procession enters the church, the entrance chant of the Mass is sung. When the priest reaches the altar, he venerates it, and may incense it. Then he goes to the chair (and replaces the cope with the chasuble). After the Gloria, he sings or says the opening prayer. The Mass continues as usual.

Catholic teaching on related devotions

From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001):

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord

120. Until 1969, the ancient feast of the presentation of Our Lord, which is of Oriental origin, was known in the West as the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and closed the Christmas season, forty days after the Lord's birth. This feast has for long been associated with many popular devotional exercises. The faithful:

  • gladly participate in the processions commemorating the Lord's entry into the Temple in Jerusalem and his encounter with God, whose house he had come to for the first time, and then with Simeon and Anna. Such processions, which in the West had taken the place of licentious pagan events, always had a penitential character, and were later identified with the blessing of candles which were carried in procession in honour of Christ, "the light to enlighten the Gentiles" (Lk 2, 32);

  • are sensitive to the actions of the Blessed Virgin in presenting her Son in the Temple, and to her submission to the Law of Moses (Lk 12, 1-8) in the rite of purification; popular piety sees in the rite of purification the humility of Our Lady and hence, 2 February has long been regarded as a feast for those in humble service.

121. Popular piety is sensitive to the providential and mysterious event that is the Conception and birth of new life. Christian mothers can easily identify with the maternity of Our Lady, the most pure Mother of the Head of the mystical Body - notwithstanding the notable differences in the Virgin's unique Conception and birth. These too are mothers in God's plan and are about to give birth to future members of the Church. From this intuition and a certain mimesis of the purification of Our Lady, the rite of purification after birth was developed, some of whose elements reflect negatively on birth.

The revised Rituale Romanum provides for the blessing of women both before and after birth, this latter only in cases where the mother could not participate at the baptism of her child.

It is a highly desirable thing for mothers and married couples to ask for these blessings which should be given in accord with the Church's prayer: in a communion of faith and charity in prayer so that pregnancy can be brought to term without difficulty (blessing before birth), and to give thanks to God for the gift of a child (blessing after birth).

122. In some local Churches, certain elements taken from the Gospel account of the Presentation of the Lord (Lk 2, 22-40), such as the obedience of Joseph and Mary to the Law of the Lord, the poverty of the holy spouses, the virginity of Our Lady, mark out the 2 February as a special feast for those at the service of the brethren in the various forms of consecrated life.

123. The feast of 2 February still retains a popular character. It is necessary, however, that such should reflect the true Christian significance of the feast. It would not be proper for popular piety in its celebration of this feast to overlook its Christological significance and concentrate exclusively on its Marian aspects. The fact that this feast should be "considered [...] a joint memorial of Son and Mother" would not support such an inversion. The candles kept by the faithful in their homes should be seen as a sign of Christ "the light of the world" and an expression of faith.

Other writers (not Acadian) on old Candlemas customs

Maria Augusta Trapp, Around the Year with the Trapp Family (1955).

All through the month of January the creche is standing in the living room, even if the Christmas tree has been removed, and every night the family prayers will be said beside the crib, followed by at least one Christmas song.

When Holy Mother Church came to Rome, in the time of the Apostles, she found that the Roman women went around town with torches and other lights on February 1st in honor of the goddess Ceres. The Church continued the same custom but "baptized" it: Forty days after the birth of a child the Jewish mother had to be purified in the temple, and so we celebrate on February 2nd the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of her little Son in the Temple; this should be celebrated in the light of many candles, in honor of Him of Whom the old Simeon said on that day, "He shall illumine the Gentiles with His light and shall be the glory of the people of Israel." There was a special blessing for the water on Epiphany Day, and there is a special solemn blessing for the candles on this Candlemas Day. Besides having beautiful prayers, the Church helps us to understand the symbolism of the light blessed on this day, so that we may make the right use of it by the bed of the dying, during storms, and in all perils to which may be exposed "our bodies and souls on land and on the waters." The five special prayers of Candlemas Day are so beautiful and so full of meaning that they should be read aloud as evening prayer the night before and explained by parents to their children. ...

On Candlemas Day every family should carry home a blessed candle, which will have a special place on the home altar and will be lit in all moments of danger, during thunderstorms, during sickness, in time of tribulation.

Candlemas Day is a bitter-sweet feast. While in the morning the church is bathed in the light of hundreds of candles in the hands of the faithful, afterwards the creche is stored again. It marks the end of the Christmas season; and the sheep and shepherds, the Gloria angel, the ox and the ass, Mary and Joseph with the Infant, and the whole little town of Bethlehem are hidden away for another year. There is always a tinge of sadness in the air, because, during these long nine weeks, the Holy Family has become so much a part of our household that it is hard to see them go.

Helen McLaughlin, Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home (n.d., but I'd guess from the 1950s).

FEAST OF THE PURIFICATION

The feast of the Purification of our Blessed Mother closes the forty days of the Christmas season. The day is also called the Presentation of the Child in the Temple, or the feast of Candlemas. On this day each member of the family should receive his or her own blessed candle to be lighted on birthdays, baptismal anniversaries, first Holy Communion, and in sickness. This is another appropriate occasion to invite friends to a home ceremony.

The family, who with lighted candles goes in spirit to the Temple with our Lady, will learn a wonderful lesson of her humility. When Mary went to offer her first-born Son, Joseph carried the offering of the poor, two turtle-doves, symbols of purity and fidelity. According to Jewish law, one would be offered as a holocaust and the other for a sin offering. The Book of Leviticus reads: "The priest shall make atonement for her sin, and thus she will be made clean." Actually Mary, the God-bearer, was not subject to such a rite--no "purification" was necessary after a virginal giving birth to Christ. Nevertheless in her humility she observed the Law.

As the Holy Family enter the Temple, the aged Simeon and Anna, called by the Holy Spirit, wait to see the Child. It had been promised to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. Mary, the living "Ark of the Covenant," guided by the same Spirit, welcomes the saintly old man and puts the Salvation of the world into his arms. "Now," he says, "Thou dost dismiss Thy servant in peace, O Lord, because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel."

The blessing of candles, which takes place on this feast, is one of the three principal popular blessings conferred by the Church. Ashes and palms are the other two. The father of a family begins the home ceremony by gathering the family in candlelight around the crib for a last time.

Father: Lord Jesus Christ, the true Light that enlightens every man who comes into the world, pour forth Thy blessing upon these candles; sanctify them by the light of Thy grace and mercifully grant that as candles by their visible light scatter the darkness of night, so too our hearts, burning with invisible fire, may be freed from all blindness of sin. With the eyes of our soul purified by Thy Light, may we discern those things that art pleasing to Thee and helpful to us, so that having finished the darksome journey of this life, we may come to never-fading joys through Thee, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. In perfect
Trinity Thou livest and reignest God forever.

All: Alleluia.

Christmas evening prayers follow the blessing (p. 14).

With the family and friends we usually have a candlelight procession from the dining room through the halls to the living room. There a Simeon of ten in a borrowed white Jewish prayer cap awaits Mary with her doll, wrapped in swaddling clothes to symbolize Baby Jesus, and a young Joseph carrying a cage with two pigeons made from modeling clay. In candlelight Simeon takes the child and prays his canticle. Then he blesses Joseph and Mary and adds: "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the
thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Then the Antiphon, "It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord," is sung or said in unison. A family could easily make its own prayer to the Queen of Heaven, asking that the graces of Forty Days remain with them for the year.

There is a prayer by Abbot Gueranger which we like for Candlemas:

"O Blessed Mother, the sword is already in your heart. You foreknow the future of the Fruit of your womb. May our fidelity in following Him through the coming mysteries of His public life bring some alleviations to the sorrows of your maternal heart."