How to Celebrate Candlemas and Catholic Motherhood
Today, February 2nd, known by many as Candlemas, is a day of many feasts! As Catholics, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Feast of the Holy Encounter. What a trifecta of meaningful moments in our faith history.
If you’re wondering how to celebrate Candlemas, read on. It’s the perfect day to honor Catholic motherhood… and not just because it’s a day marked by juggling many things at once, which is what we all know new moms are doing. Candlemas highlights important moments in the early life of Jesus (his presentation at the Temple, his meeting wisdom figures like Simeon and Anna) and significant milestones in the early days of motherhood for Mary (her first trip back to Temple postpartum, her sharing of her son with her faith community for the first time). It calls to my mind those early weeks of a newborn’s life — those hazy, glowing, chaotic, sweet, sleepy, and tender days — and of how monumental each event taking place during this period feels as a new mom.
And so, it’s a day on which I like to celebrate the women in my life who are new to motherhood altogether, and those who are in a new phase of motherhood with the birth of a second, third, fourth, fifth, or further-down-the-line child.
And so, it’s a day on which I like to celebrate the women in my life who are new to motherhood altogether and those who are in a new phase of their Catholic motherhood with the birth of a second, third, fourth, fifth, or further-down-the-line child.
This is how I like to celebrate Candlemas and new moms:
Everyone knows the value of a shared meal in the early weeks of a newborn’s life when much of a mother’s energy is devoted to feeding the family’s littlest member but everyone else still needs nourishment as well. Whether that meal is home-cooked, takeout from the family’s favorite local place, or a gift card to a grocery store that provides an array of ready-to-eat options, food will always and forever — or at least until the second coming of Jesus! — be appreciated by new moms.
When I bring a meal to a new mom to celebrate Candlemas, I think about how to feed her spirit as well as her body. I always include a card with an encouraging note that acknowledges her Catholic motherhood. I’m a great believer in the power of pretty things to transform our experience of everyday life, so I’ll often throw into the delivery basket a package of pretty napkins or a candle to place in the center of the dinner table as well.
Offer to Watch Older Kids
You know that age-old and wonderful advice often given to new parents to “nap when the baby naps?” Well, it only really works the first time around. There’s nothing quite as sweet as seeing big brothers and sisters interact with the new baby, but there is no denying that older siblings intervene with a mama’s nap potential!
Besides that, they can make the much-needed physical recovery from birth difficult for moms, and they can also limit mom’s snuggle time with their sweet babe (and is there anything as special as that?). That’s why one of the things I try to do for moms is give them some one-on-one time with the newest member of their family by arranging an outing for the older kids in a family.
When I’m wondering how to celebrate Candlemas with a friend who has a newborn, I try three different approaches. Sometimes this means bringing the older kids to my house, other times it means visiting their house and sending mom off to the bedroom with the baby, and other times it’s as simple as taking them for a long walk or a trip to the park.
In Covid-19 times, it’s harder to do this. In lieu of sharing our house’s germs with the home of a vulnerable newborn, I’ve tried three things: if the weather is nice, I’ve arranged outdoor outings, I’ve organized Zoom play dates, and I’ve created care packages full of time-consuming toys for big brothers and sisters.
The latter two options don’t get older kids out of the house, but it reminds brothers and sisters that they are special… and provides them with some entertainment organized by someone other than their tired mom.
Choose a Sweet Gift for the Mom (Not the Baby)
I treasured every blanket, book, swaddle, and bib that friends and family members lovingly gifted my children at birth, but looking back, some of the gifts that meant the most were items directed specifically towards me, the mother. For instance, a cousin sent me the coziest fleece robe that I basically lived in for the weeks after the birth of my oldest; it is still a favorite item that I turn to regularly, and always with the special reminder of my earliest days as a mom.
After the birth of my second, a dear friend sent me a modern icon of the Madonna, which brought tears to my eyes as it captured the essence of Catholic motherhood — the love between mother and child.
I felt so seen and cared for by these gifts, by the attention that my loved ones showed me at this unique and poignant time of life. Remembering the feeling, I often try to do the same, to give a gift specifically for the new mom instead of her baby. Some of my go-to gifts are a beautiful journal to record special thoughts and memories from this sacred time of life, a statue or piece of jewelry depicting Mary, the mother of all mothers, or something cozy to wear around the house.
Honoring Catholic motherhood is a way to honor life: the lives of mothers, the new lives they have brought forth into the world, and family life more broadly. It’s something that I feel called to do, as a mom myself, and as a Catholic.
The next time you’re wondering how to celebrate Candlemas, think of the trio of feast days related to the early days of Mary’s motherhood and commit to being there for the mothers in your life. Would you join me?
Honor New Mothers with House of Joppa
At House of Joppa, we’re dedicated to honoring new mothers and celebrating the beauty of our Catholic faith with a visually-pleasing selection of Catholic home decor, artwork, and other gift items. Learn more about how to celebrate Catholic feast days by visiting our blog.