Candlemas, Imbolc and the first hope of Spring

It’s freezing! That’s the first thing to say at the moment. When I went to the plot earlier today the  “earth stood  hard as iron” (to quote Christina Rosetti – In a Bleak mid Winter) a strange time you might imagine to start thinking about early signs and hopes of Spring; and yet here we are at one on those moments where the Celtic pagan calendar and Christianity meet in the time of Candlemas or Imbolc.

‘February 2 is one of the great cross-quarter days which make up the wheel of the year. It falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and in many traditions is considered the beginning of spring.‘ (School of the Seasons)

Frost on the Feverfew at Plot107

Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar – it marked a point when winter food stocks were beginning to be used up and so rituals were performed with the hope of bringing divine energy to ensure good harvests in the months to come. Fires we often lit, and the time was regarded as the start of Spring. For some Christians too today is a special time, a time called Candlemas – a time when we take a last glance back at the wonder of the birth of Jesus, celebrate his early life and his family, and begin to turn our eyes towards the coming celebrations of Easter – again the celebration (as the name suggests) will usually involve lighting of candles to represent Jesus “the light of the world” (John 8.12)

Another symbol sometimes associated with Candlemas is the snowdrop – no doubt because it’s round about now that we usually start to see them daring to put their heads up as another messenger of those early hopes of Spring and new life – and there were plenty of them doing just that on the banking at LEAF where I went after finishing on the plot.

Whether it was the cold, or the change in spirits that perhaps can come with a change of season, we got into some serious reflection on life today at LEAF. When I say serious it was of course all with a smile and laugh is our way but nevertheless a deep reflection. We talked about humankinds desire to constantly feel “in control” even over nature, Gods creation, and the fact that the reality is, no matter how much we feel we’ve finally got it under control, ultimately nature will last us out. Our greatest triumphs will all fade away but the natural cycle of life and death and rebirth will outlast us all.

I suppose this all sounds a bit miserable for a cold but sunny day on the allotments, it really wasn’t – but our life, like the rest of creation, often seems to move in seasons – and, as I sit here writing this and reflecting on today and the last week I also think about Darren who I heard recently had died aged 37 years old. Darren had many problems in life, he was homeless and he drank – and though I only knew him a short time – I will miss the conversations we shared.

“We are all human beings.
Our life is short and full of trouble.
Our life is like a flower that grows quickly and then dies away.
Our life is like a shadow that is here for a short time and then is gone.” (Job 14.1-2)

Rest in peace Darren.


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