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My cover
Nell and her oranges

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Nell!

Nell would have been 360 today. She was born on February 2, 1650, according to a horoscope prepared for her during her life, though for some reason her place of birth wasn't given - maybe because she didn't know. It was likely London, though it might also have been Oxford, and there have also been claims for Herefordshire.

February 2 is Candlemas, a day rich in tradition, as reflected by the excerpts below from Wikipedia. (

"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"
— Robert Herrick (1591–1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"

As the poem by Robert Herrick records, the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes; for traces of berries, holly and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out.

Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.[

Traditionally the Western term "Candlemas" (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.

Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas, and its religious signifance relates to The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church, which commemorates an event described in the Gospel of Luke 2:22–40.

According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.).

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon the Righteous. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord." (Luke 2:26) Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant go in peace, just as you said. 30 I have seen with my own eyes the one you have sent to save people. 31 You have made this way for all peoples to be saved. 32 He is a light which will shine for those who do not know God. He is the one who will bring praise to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32).

In Scotland, until a change in the law in 1991, and in much of northern England until the 18th century, Candlemas was one of the traditional quarter days when quarterly rents were due for payment, as well as the day or term for various other business transactions, including the hiring of servants.

In the United Kingdom, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later: "If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again."[9]. It is also alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather as well as wolves, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least.[citation needed] The same is true in Italy, where it is called Candelora.

It seems this belief is the likely source of the American tradition of Groundhog Day.

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

4 February 1841 — from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary …"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." [1]