February 2 is the Candelora festival. You don’t hear about it actually being celebrated much in Tuscany where I am, but rather used to know if winter is over.
The roots of the festival go back to Roman times, the goddess Febris or the Etruscan god Februss, the month of February was time to purify yourself. The Catholic festival is forty days after Christmas. In the Jewish tradition, after giving birth to a son, the mother went to the temple to be “purified”. Jesus was brought to the Temple to be blessed. Now they bless candles and have processions.
Like Groundhog’s day in the USA, the same sort of sayings are popular in Italy for predicting the future. With groundhog’s day, if he see’s his shadow ( it’s sunny out) then winter is another 6 weeks. Here I have found funny contrasting sayings.
“Per la Candelora se piove o nevica dall’inverno siamo fora ma se c’è il sole o il solicello siamo sempre a mezzo inverno”
For the feast of Candelora, if it rains or snows, winter is over… but if there is sun we are in the middle of winter.
Ma c’è anche il detto opposto: “Per la Candelora se c’è sole siamo fora ma se c’è piove o fa freddo siamo sempre dentro”.
But there is also the opposite saying! ” For the feast of the caldelora if there is sun we are out of winter but if it rains or is cold, still in winter”
It is the festival of light, so candles are often involved. We are half way between the winter soltice and the summer soltice and the days are getting longer, so more light as well.
I remember growing up having candles held up to my neck to bless me, in Italy that is San Biagio, who’s patron Saint’s day in February 5th.
I always like to know about sweets for certain celebrations. Around the Naples region they have a special dessert which was made in the convents called Migliaccio. It is made with semolino ( cream of wheat) cooked and then sweetened and ricotta and candied fruit added before baking. Similar to the filling of the fabulous sfogliatelle pastries. We are in the middle of Carnevale, so there are a lot of sweets available now.
All around the world you will find this being celebrated in some way. In France they are making and eating crepes.
Mexico has a special sweet, Rocas, much like what is made for the Epiphany with a baby Jesus hidden inside.
I just bought a special Tuscan dessert called the Schiacchiata alla Fiorentina. Traditionally, schiacchiata here is the flatbread with salt and olive oil which is used for making wonderful panini, but this is an old school cake, made using lard and orange zest.
Modern recipes no longer use lard, but yogurt. I personally always buy mine as this is something that they do really well and I can buy a half a cake or just a piece which is all we really need! You can also get it filled with crema chantilly which is perfetto.