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Festivals and traditions


An old church festival

The Danish word for candlemas is kyndelmisse. The word comes from Latin Missa Candelarum and means "candle (church) service". We celebrate Candlemas on February 2, 40 days after Christmas. Candlemas is not mentioned in the Bible but the celebration is based on an event related in the Bible by Luke, namely the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. (See the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2.) In the Temple, Jesus' parents meet Simeon, who calls Jesus "a light for revelation to the Gentiles". Thus, at Candlemas we celebrate Jesus as a light in the darkness that we experience in and around us. 

In the Middle Ages Candlemas referred to a practice whereby a pastor blessed candles for use throughout the year. The festival was also called the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin (Mary). At the time when Jesus was born women who gave birth were considered impure and not allowed in the Temple for a period of 40 days. After 40 days they were to present their baby in the Temple (see above) and to complete a ritual purification before being readmitted into the community. This was also the case for Jesus' mother Mary.


In the past in Denmark, Candlemas was a non-religious festival which denoted that half of the winter season had passed. A candle was lit to give hope and celebrate that spring was approaching.

New traditions emerging - Jesus celebrated as the light of God

Since 1770 Candlemas has been an ordinary day and not a holy day in Denmark. However, recently many parish churches have revived the festival. Hence, you may find concerts and church services on February 2 in your area. Go to the page Find a church to find a church in your area. The tradition of Candlemas may be on its way back into the church calendar as a candle service at mid-winter celebrating Jesus as the light of God – the light that defeated the powers of darkness.