February 15 is Stritenia Gospodne or Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
Candlemas, Stritenia Gospodne in Ukraine is a holiday of the Orthodox Church, the final cycle of the Christmas holidays. It is believed that this day was not only the day of the meeting of infant Jesus with our Lord, but also the meeting of Jesus with the world.
“Candlemas” in Old Slavonic means “meeting” and “joy”.
Because of the verses of the Canticle of Simeon: “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles,” a custom of blessing candles developed.
The candles were lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church, to the accompaniment of the congregation and choir singing the Canticle of Simeon. Because of this, the feast also became known as Candlemas. The righteous Elder Simeon was in the temple. God promised him that he would not die until the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord, came into the world.
Candlemas Day is a celebration of not only meeting Simeon with the Christ, that he was waiting for all his life, but also a meeting of Christ with humanity, which is always open as a true joy.
Meeting of Winter and Spring
Apart from the religious meaning of Stritenia, Ukrainians also see this date as a meeting of winter and spring, and this holiday has pagan connotations.
A lot of omens and superstitions prescribe weather signs to this day connected with the change over from winter to springtime:
- if the sunset is bright, then the frosty weather is over
- if there is no sun on Stritenia evening, get ready for a new cold wave before spring comes
- a thaw on this day predicts a bountiful wheat harvest
- if it snows on Stritenia, this year’s crop is going to be rich.
It is clear that winter is on the retreat after this date.
Stritenska candle is a symbol of blessing and enlightenment of the soul.
What to cook on Candlemas, Stritenia Gospodne in Ukraine?
Larks (zhaivoronky) are baked on Stritenia.
Birds have always been the favorites of our ancestors. When the day won the night the girls began to sing vesnianky (spring songs) to call for spring and birds coming back from warm countries.
The folk calendar had a holiday devoted to birds. The ritual cakes in the form of birds are baked on this day and given to children.