Friday, 1 February 2013

Snowdrops & Candlemas Day

Posted by Dr Seona Anderson

Candlemas is not often celebrated in Britain today but in the past the 2nd of February was an important church festival.

Falling in the middle of winter, between the shortest day and the spring equinox, it may have had pre-Christian traditions as a celebration of light. Candlemas Day was traditionally when the candles were brought to the church to be blessed. It was also one of the twelve great feasts of Eastern Christian, the ‘Feast of the Presentation of the Lord’, the day when Jesus was first brought to the temple after his birth.

It is at this time of year that snowdrops start to bloom, so its perhaps no surprise that this pure white flower has links to Candlemas too. Bunches were placed on the altar of the Virgin Mary to honour her purification forty days after the birth of Jesus.

Here's a few more snowdrop facts for this Candlemas weekend:
  • Snowdrops are thought to have been introduced many centuries ago, possibly in the early 1600s. They are not considered a native plant but are now widely naturalised across all of Britain. 
  • The Girl Guides in Britain used to collect snowdrops for sale to raise funds. The Girl Scout Association in Russia, started in 1910 and reinstated in the 1990s, has three snowdrops on its emblem. 
  • Queen Victoria had a bouquet of snowdrops at her wedding to Prince Albert on 10th February 1840. 
  • Snowdrops are still one of our best loved wildflowers - to see some snowdrop related artwork visit our online Patchwork Meadow gallery.

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