The Orthodox Christians celebrate the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on February 15. It is one of the 12 Great Feasts that symbolizes not only the meeting of humanity and God but also the meeting of the winter and spring.
History of Feast
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple appeared at the liturgic calendar of the church in the IV century for the first time. However, it was not treated as an independent holiday but as the day that ends the 40-day-cycle after the Epiphany.
It was first celebrated as an independent holiday only in the VI century during the reign of Justinian I.
It is tied with the day when Jesus Christ is a new-born who met Simeon and Anna the Prophetess.
According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah. Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that 'he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ'. When he swept up Jesus he claimed that this infant will become the Savior. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is the landmark meeting of the Books of the Old and New Covenant and the acquaintance of the humanity with Messiah.
According to the law mentioned in the Old Testament stated that a woman that delivered a boy was ritually unholy for 40 days (if a girl – 80 days).
After this period of time, in order for purification, each mother had to bring a one-year lamb as the benefaction as the symbol of recognition of supreme God’s power over her and gratitude and dove or turtle dove as the benefaction of purification from sins.
If a woman was poor and was not able to buy a lamb, she could bring only two turtle doves.
According to this law, since the liberation of Jews from Egyptian capture, each first male newborn belonged to God and it should be taken to the church on the 40th day of birth.
Mary, in order, fulfilled these regulations and brought together with her husband her son, and two turtle doves. Later, they departed to Nazareth.
Peculiarities of Divine Service
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is one of the feasts dedicated directly to Christ; however, according to the content of the divine service it is close to Marian feast days. That is why, the divine service peculiarities of the Presentation of the Lord are inherent to Marian feast with the elements of Feasts of Jesus Christ, particularly, the antiphons are descriptive during the Liturgy.
The icon with the feast of the image of Jesus Christ and Holy Mother are equal according to their significance: baby Savior sitting in arms of Simeon, who accept Savior on his hands and presenting the old world, fulfilling with divinity and Holy Mother coming to the way of the Cross – giving Her Son for the salvation of the world.
Important note: if the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple occurs on Monday of the first week of the Great Lent (it happens rarely), the festive divine service is postponed for another day.
Besides, it is used to bless the candles in the churches and give them to believers.
National traditions and rites
This day, early Slavs also celebrated the meeting of the winter and spring. It was considered that February 15 is the only time during the whole winter when it is possible to hear thunder.
According to the tradition, people sang pagan songs-spells for warm and good summer, light bonfires near the roads and tell fortunes.
The manipulations with fire were transported in the blessing of candles with the adoption of Christianity. They were blessed after the water, lit in the church and taken home.
The candles were stored at the corner or they were braided in the didukh (Ukrainian Christmas decoration; made from a sheaf of wheat). According to the beliefs, they have phenomenal power and protected the house from windstorm, rainstorm or waterspout; while fields were protected from windfall or hail; the members of the family were protected from bitter eyes and illnesses.
During each event in the family – joyful or sad – the priest was invited; he served a prayer service and lit a candle. However, it did not burn down till the end. Instead, it was restored – build-up and the fire of such candles was used only in the most important cases.
Such candles were lit when people returned from the church on Presentation of Jesus at the Temple when the bad weather circled the house, the difficulties during labor, when the fire or cataclysm occurred in the village, when a person is seized with epilepsy (dark disease); when a person died.
As it was mentioned, on this day, it was used to bless the water. The water was collected from icicles and added to the usual water.
According to the beliefs, such water is healing: it heals wounds and internal diseases; saves from bitter eyes, witch or werewolf. It was used to spray soldiers before a fight and chumaks (traditional wagon-based trading occupation) before a journey; bee-keepers sprayed bee houses with it at eth beginning of the season; while householders sprayed cattle with it during the first pasture.
Distinguishing features and superstitions
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is tied with many distinguishing features. Thus, our ancestors believed that if this day, the water is dripping from the roof, it means the long winter. If this day the sun came out it was a sign of severe frosts. The snowfall predicted rainy spring; clear sunset – stop of severe frosts; clear and calm weather – good harvest.
There are also financial features. Particularly, it is prohibited to put money on the kitchen table this day because luck might leave the house.
It was also the day for fortunetelling, putting a plate with grain to the yard for the whole night. If there is dew – the heavy crop expected; the absence of dew was a bad sign.
Besides, this day, some bans acted. For example, it was not allowed to feel bored because it is a joyful feast and it was important to have fun on this day; it was banned to dispute and start a long journey.
Besides, it was not allowed to work as the temporal affairs deflected from spiritual. The exclusions are cooking, taking care of cattle/pets and efforts for a wealth of other people.
Our ancestors treated negatively waterworks. It was dangerous to contact water: even laundry and washing in bath-house.
Concerning the last prohibition, washing was banned in former times because a person had to work a lot for it: chop wood, bring water and so on. Modern people can take bath not violating this ban.
The most positive activity of this day is visiting the church. If a person cannot stay the whole divine service; he/she has to come to the church, light a candle and pray.