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(February 2) In the Christian church, the celebration of the presentation of the infant Jesus and the post-childbirth purification of Mary in the Temple, in accordance with Jewish law. The Greek church calls it Hypapante (Meeting) in reference to Jesus' meeting there with Simeon, to whom it had been revealed that he would not die before meeting the Messiah. The festival is first documented in Jerusalem in the late 4th century; the custom of observing it with lighted candles (the source of its name) dates to at least the mid-5th century. The popular nonreligious holiday Groundhog Day developed, in part, from the medieval tradition that certain animals interrupted their hibernation on this day.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Candlemas, visit Britannica.com.