On the fortieth day came Mary mild,
Unto the temple with her child,
To show herself clean, who never was defiled,
And therewith endeth Christmas.
Go HERE to read and hear this beautiful carol that links the 40th day after Christmas to the 12 days of Christmas.
This is why, though some take down decorations at Epiphany, others heard for many years that one just had to have the greens down by the end of January.
The poet 17th century English poet Robert Herrick expressed the traditions—removing the holiday greens, the coming of Spring and kindling the Christmas wood.
Being midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, it is now that we truly seek to look to the coming light. From the Scottish immigrants we have a rhyme that references the halfway mark and places pressure on Candlemas to hint at the weather for the rest of the season.
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop
Related to the strength of the sun on Candlemas and having already established a penchant in Appalachia for using animals to divine the season and weather changes, an old German tradition took hold in the mountains involving a marmet (“whistle-pig” to us mountaineers) seeing its shadow . . .