Coming from the Latin words "festa candelarum" or festival of candles, Candlemas replaced the pagan holiday Lupercales that honoured the god Pan, during which rowdy revelers would run through the streets of Rome at night waving flaming torches.
Pope Gelasius I, whose generosity to pilgrims arriving in Rome was maked by his provided pancakes, Christianized the pagan holiday in 472, renaming it the feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple, symbolized by light. On Candlemas, candles brought to the church are blessed, to be lit later for protection from storms, as well as for use during Extreme Unction and other ceremonies. Candles were also burned during the sowing season and carried in procession through fields and vineyards.
Today marks the official end of the Christmas season, so if you haven't gotten the lights down off your house yet, you have no excuse. If you've long ago taken down all your red and green, but left up your mistletoe, today is the day to take it down. Darn it.
This date also marks the halfway point of the winter season! Woohoo! A precursor to our modern day Groundhog Day prediction, an old English proverb held that "if Candlemas be fair and bright, winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, winter will not come again."
I linked several customs and a coloring page for today in last year's post, including informatio on the European custom of preparing Crepe Suzettes for today's celebration. We're not as fancy as all that around here, though. We're just having pancakes for lunch. Here's a good recipe for Crepes, though, if you're braver than I and here's the Candlemas site from Worldwide Gourmet which has links to several more recipes and a rundown of customs for the feast day from several countries.