I like Filipinos. They start decorating for Christmas in September, and how can you not like a people who embody the Christmas spirit for almost half of the year?

Personally, I get the decorating bug a few days before Halloween. I start eyeing the scarecrows and giant spiders that adorn my lawn and imagine them replaced by my Nativity scene. I usually put up enough Christmas lights around my house to remind the crew of the International Space Station that Jesus is still the Reason for the Season.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Halloween. I just love Christmas even more. A lot more.

Christmas is a wonderful holiday. What other feast, Christian or otherwise, could make jaded, hard-hearted New Yorkers gentler toward each other?

And as to you often ignored proscription about recommending restraint in terms of decorating until Gaudete Sunday, by the time November rolls around, I am too often drunk on the Milk of Human Kindness to pay attention to those naysayers. And, frankly, if the Filipino bishops are kosher with their flock decorating as early as they do, then I’m kosher with it also.

The question that comes up is when do you starting taking the decorations down. I’m known in my neighborhood for keeping up my decorations until Feb. 2―the Feast of Candlemas.

Candlemas, also called the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus or the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary by some Christians, is the commemoration of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It’s the day the Church blesses the candles used for worship that year, hence the name―Candle Mass.

It wasn’t too long ago when it served as the end-bracket of the Christmas season instead of the Feast of the Epiphany, as it is currently.

According to Jewish law a woman who gave birth to a boy was considered unclean for a week and to was then to remain an additional 33 days “in the blood of her purification.”

That’s the same amount time between Christmas and Candlemas.

As you can see, the Catholic Church has been on top of things.

When the 40 days were over the mother was to...

...bring to the priest at the entrance of the Tent of the Lord's presence a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. The priest shall present her offering to the Lord and perform the ritual to take away her impurity, and she will be ritually clean. This, then, is what a woman must do after giving birth. (Leviticus 12:6-7)

Thus, Mary redeemed Jesus at the Temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon, (Luke 2:25-35) while in the presence of Anna the prophetess. (Luke 2:36-38) it’s not a theological stretch to think that Sts. Anne and Joachim were also present. After all, Jesus was their first grandchild. Perhaps cousins Sts. Elizabeth and John the Baptist were also in attendance.

 

How to Celebrate Candlemas

There’s nothing more depressing than to see a discarded Christmas tree on the curb on Dec. 26.

The days between Epiphany and Candlemas have become a no-man’s-land but there’s no reason why we can’t celebrate it by extending the joy of the Incarnation a bit longer. Keep the Spirit of Christmas with you a bit longer next year. Considering keeping up some, or all, of your decorations until Candlemas to remain people, Christian and otherwise, that Jesus came to save them. This whole paganic, prognosticating prairie dog carted out on Groundhog’s Day has got to stop.

And the best way to do that is to keep the holiday holy. Lay people are invited to bring their own candles, preferably beeswax, to church on Candlemas to have them blessed. Ask your pastor to look into the possibility of procession next year on Candlemas. Perhaps your parish can combine the procession with an all-you-can-eat-crêpe-and-candle-blessing party.

Every country has its own traditional food for Candlemas. Italian, French and Hungarian Catholics will eat crepes, so you should also. And, frankly, why wouldn’t you? Yet another reason to eat crepes! Thank you, Jesus!

This custom finds its origins in the legend about Pope Gelasius I who made Candlemas an official holiday throughout the Universal Church. It was said that he distributed pancakes to the poor and to pilgrims coming to Rome on Candlemas.

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My Grandmother’s Chocolate Crêpe Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large orange’s zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package of chocolate chips
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • An additional stick of butter to grease the skillet.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar and salt. Melt the butter and add it to the other ingredients. (You can use a blender but what would your grandmother say!)
  2. You know the ingredients are well-blended when the mixture is thin, smooth and bubbles start to form on top. This is about a minute or two. (A blender would take only 30 seconds to do this but, we’re back again to your grandmother and that’s not a battle I want to fight.)
  3. Let batter sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  4. Add the chocolate chips.
  5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat with butter using the additional stick of butter. Simply peel back the paper wrapping and generously run the exposed end of the butter on the skillet.
  6. Ladle a ⅓ cup of the batter onto the skillet and swirl it around to completely cover the bottom of the skillet.
  7. Cook until the bottom of the crêpe is golden brown. this should be about 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Peel off the done crêpe with a rubber spatula and, using your fingers, quickly flip the crêpe over.
  9. Cook 1 more minute more and slide the crêpe out onto a dish lined with paper towels.
  10. Repeat until the batter is finished.

Crêpes are simple to make but, keep your eye on them as they can burn easily.