days after the birth of Christ, an important day arrived for
his mother, the Virgin Mary. According to the religious customs
of the time, a new mother was impure for a week after giving birth.
If the child was a boy, she would then wait a further thirty-three
days (much longer if it was a girl) before going to the Temple for
the ritual of her purification and the presentation of the child.
Because of her family's poverty, Mary's offering to the Temple would
have been just a couple of pigeons or turtle doves. Joseph would
however, have had to pay five shekels to the priest - a first-born
son was symbolically offered to God, then in effect ransomed back
to the father.
their visit to the Temple, the family met
a man called Simeon, who
had long prophesied
that Jesus would be 'a
light for revelation to the Gentiles', words that form part of his
famous prayer, the Nunc dimittis. In recognition of this light,
the day of the Purification of the Virgin, now more commonly called
the Presentation of Our Lord, became associated with candles, hence
another name for it, Candlemas and
in Spanish La Candelaria.
churches used to bless the year's
supply of candles on this day, the 2nd February, and candlelit processions
also mark the occasion in some places, in Tenerife, for example.
Anyone with the name Purificación will celebrate her name
day is linked to some non-religious
beliefs too. Hibernating animals, such as bears or wolves, will
traditionally use this day, when spring is not too far off, to emerge
from their lairs to check out the weather, as will a certain rodent
in the USA, giving its name to Groundhog Day.
If these animals find
that the weather is fine, it is considered a bad omen
for the weather later on.
next day, that of Saint Blaise, or San Blas in Spanish, also
has a meteorological significance, because sailors who regularly
use the waters off Spain's northern coasts pay special attention
to the winds on this day. The direction of the wind in the last
hour of the day will, they say, be the dominant direction they can
expect throughout the year.
was another contemporary of San Antón and San Sebastián.
The legends about him tell
us little except that he was an expert doctor of Armenian origin
as well as being a bishop, and that he once cured a child who was
choking to death on a fish bone.
His fame for curing disease spread
even to the animal kingdom, and herds of wild animals supposedly
flocked to him for his care. He fell victim to the persecution of
Christians, however, and was cruelly beaten with wool combs before
being beheaded in the year 316.
is remembered also as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers, a group
of saints whose intercession was thought to be particulary useful
against various diseases, his speciality being those of the throat.
On his day, the 3rd February, two crossed candles are used in churches
to bless the throats of the faithful, and in Nerja you will see
people carrying loaves of bread into Mass, because bread that has
been blessed on this day will, once it has been eaten, supposedly
ward off throat infection. Which is worth knowing if, like me, you
sing in a choir.
can listen to the episode below.