The basis of the Feast of the Purification was the Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child and were not permitted to enter the Temple to worship. This was 40 days after the birth of a son and 60 days after the birth of a daughter. At the end of the 40 or 60 days, the mother was brought to the Temple or synagogue and ritually purified. Now she can go to religious services again, and generally go out in public.
It is customary to bring candles from home to be blessed so they can be lit after dusk on All Saints' Day (1 November), during the Sacrament of Unction, and during storms and times of trouble.
Candlemas began as a Roman festival to celebrate the return of spring. The Romans had a custom of lighting candles to scare away evil spirits in the winter.
Candlemas was also believed to be a good day for weather forecasting (it falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox). People believe that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. The weather proverbs express the idea that a fine bright sunny Candlemas day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy Candlemas day means that the worst of winter is over.
Candlemas Day is also known as "Groundhog's Day" in America, the day when, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there'll be 6 more weeks of Winter. All Europeans have a similar belief about how Candlemas weather portends the length of winter. The English have a saying, "If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." The Germans also have a saying :
Ist's zu Lichtmess mild und rein If Candlemas is mild and pure,
wirds ein langer Winter sein. Winter will be long for sure.
In Scotland it is now a Scottish legal "quarter day" when rents and other payments fall due. There is an old traditional poem which said:
"If Candlemas Day be bright and fair
Half the winter is to come and mair (more)
If Candlemas Day be dark and foul
Half the winter was over at Yowl (Christmas)
Will spring arrive soon this year?