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Candlemas: Winter's Warm Midpoint

Yesterday was Candlemas, the ancient festival of lights marking the midpoint of winter between the shortest day of the year on the winter solstice and the spring equinox in late March.

It's an important marker for me since I welcome and venerate the return of the sun from the depths of darkness. Every day for the past month I've been watching where the sun sets on the Front Range mountains, seeing it slowly creep north along the escarpment, spreading more light and warmth. Today in Colorado Springs there are 10 hours 17 minutes of daylight.

Candlemas, a time for Christians to bless candles and have candle-lit processions before mass, is rooted in pagan wisdom as well as rites celebrating the Roman and Etruscan God Februus, a god of purification, riches, and death. Februrarius is the holy month of Februus, a time of spring cleaning, purification, and preparing for the new year, especially since February was the last month of the year for the Romans.

Another pagan custom on Candlemas is predicting the weather, a tradition that started in Germany with badgers removed from their dens. Early Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, originally from Germany, used groundhogs, hence Groundhog Day.

If you're in Colorado this weekend, get out and celebrate the halfway point of winter in warm sunlight. It's completely clear across the state today and the temperature here in Colorado Springs will be a mild 60 degrees...I'm going climbing!

Here is a photograph I shot of layered clouds at sunset over the Front Range in February 1977, on Kodachrome 64 film with a Canon F-1 and 400mm lens. Photograph @ Stewart M. Green

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