Candlemas(2nd February) marks the presentation of baby Jesus in the Temple, where Simeon held the baby and called him a ‘Light to the World’. It takes its name from the blessing of candles for use in church through the coming year. On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home.
Candlemas has another aspect that makes it important in Camphill and anywhere working out of Biodynamic agriculture. It is the time when the crystalline forms in the earth are most active. Rudolf Steiner suggested that it is the time of year to turn our thoughts to the earth. Thus we celebrate it as a land festival, usually by putting candles in the earth. Candlemas also marks the end of winter and celebrates the first stirrings of Spring.
Halloween, All Hallows and All Souls
A pre-Christian festival marking the beginning of winter and also a time when we on Earth can most closely experience those who have died. Most people now celebrate only Halloween (meaning All Hallows’ Eve) on 31st October; we often celebrate this with a Halloween party. But we also always include All Hallows (or All Saints; 1st November) and All Souls (2nd November). However, the whole of November is a time when many people feel a strong connection to those who have died and we have an artistic evening, usually in the last week, to mark this.
Other ‘minor’ festivals
We celebrate several Saints Days, most of which occur in the winter. There are certainly others that we could include, and all Camphill Communities tend to have their own favourites!
Saint Francis and St Martin
Saint Francis and St Martin have many similarities — both gave up ‘comfortable’ lives to serve God through helping social outcasts. They were both very humble and were fundamental in the impulse of people living together in communities. St Francis (remembered on 4th October) is the Patron Saint of Animals and also Patron Saint of the Environment. On St Martin’s Day (11th November) we remember Martin, known for his gentleness and ability to bring warmth and light to those in need, by having a lantern walk.
Saint Paul (remembered on 25th January) was just the opposite — very forceful and sure of his beliefs. He was converted on the road to Damascus and travelled tens of thousands of miles around the Mediterranean spreading the word of Christ. He never gave up despite being thrown in to prison several times for saying what he thought.
St Nicholas (6th December), who devoted his life to helping the sick and needy, is popular in many parts of Europe, especially Holland (many children in Europe receive gifts on this day) and Santa Lucia (13th December), associated with the winter festival of light, is popular in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. Both festivals have to do with realising that Christmas is about giving without expecting to receive.
The passage from John’s Gospel (John XI) seems to indicate that the Raising of Lazarus (remembered on 23rd February) was really the first event leading up to the Easter. It was upon hearing of this miracle that the chief priests and Pharisees determined to bring about the death of Jesus. Although we are often on half-term holiday on this date, we celebrate this as a Community when we can.