I have a very early memory of masses of snowdrops under a large tree. It must be a memory of before I was five years old as we moved from that house in Mainsforth, County Durham to another in Teesdale when I was five. In our new home, in the northern Pennines, I remember the snow in winter, and how the little snowdrops would force their way through lying snow and give us a hopeful sign that Spring was on its way.
I am so pleased that even in Manchester, close to St Chrysostom’s Church I see snowdrops. They not only connect me with earlier scenes in life, they also remain for me a sign of hope.
Many Christians of the past, and indeed many of different cultures today, connect the rhythm of the seasons with the telling of their faith. Snowdrops have, in Britain, been closely associated with Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ into the Temple (February 2nd). This is the day when Simeon took the child in his arms and proclaimed him a light to the world, and Anna proclaimed his glory.
A poem An Early Calendar of English Flowers has the lines;
The Snowdrop, purest white arraie, First rears her hede on Candlemas daie.
And in early sixteenth century Scotland at Melrose Abbey the monks believed the snowdrop bloomed on February 2nd in memory of Mary. Snowdrops were often placed at Mary’s statue on February 2nd.
Many Christian feasts have layers of meaning, and many rich symbols, stories and legends associated with them. We do well to remember them and share them. By these means deep truths or religious feelings are often offered and conveyed. At Candlemas the lighting of candles, and the blooming of the snowdrops offer signs of light and hope in times of cold and darkness.