This beautiful feast, which used to mark the end of the Christmas season, celebrates the occasion of Jesus' presentation in the Temple and Simeon's witness that Jesus is a "light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel." At Masses around the world on this day, the Church blesses the candles which will be used for her liturgical rites all year.
It's been about four or five years since I learned that we can bring our own candles to be blessed for devotional use at home. Since then I have brought my basket laden with candles to Mass, for our pastor to include in the rite with which he blesses the candles. But it always seems I am scrambling the night of February 2, trying ot think of--and find--what we will use this year. This year I will be ready.
These are the kinds of candles we've successfully in the past or want to try this year in our family prayer times.
Beeswax candles. This may seem a generic category but I want to note beeswax in a special way. The Church requires that liturgical candles be made of beeswax (or at least mostly of beeswax) because of its symbolization of Jesus' Incarnation (and indirectly, Mary's pure virginity). I give it priority when it's practical, especially for more significant feasts. A carved beeswax candle I received as a Christmas gift would look beautiful on our Lenten altar, and we made our Advent candles from rolled beeswax sheets this past year. Speaking of...
Advent candles. It seems as if we just put away all the Advent apparatus. But go ahead anyway and get next year's now. Order from a Catholic supplier; or see if your local Catholic bookstore has any left over. Appropriately colored tapers or votives from a department store work, too. If you want to make them, you can find beeswax sheets at some craft stores, or order some online--or I love this idea of painting white candles with crayons.
Altar/shrine candles. Options here are really quite diverse. Beeswax votives and tapers are available; I've also used tea lights, pillars, votives from Wal-mart and specialty candle shops, a Virgin of Guadalupe candle I found at the grocery store. The kids really like to have a blessed candle--any candle--lit when we gather to pray together.
Christ candles. We use one at Christmas and one at Easter. In the past we've used a tall white store-bought candle. This year we're rolling a beeswax pillar and studding it with cloves in the form of a cross.
Mary candles. I always have a blue candle or two in my basket for Marian feasts. One new tradition we will try this year is a Immaculate Conception novena candle. Better go get a white one...
Baptism candles. Renewing your baptismal vows on your baptism anniversary is a wonderful tradition. If you or other members of your family do not have the candle each of you received on that occasion, you can buy a replacement. (If your parish gives away the taper candles used at Candlemas or the Easter Vigil mass, they are excellent for this use--and they're already blessed!)
Memorial candles. This little tradition was inspired by the Jewish yahrzeit candle, which is lit for a loved one for one year after his or her death. In November, the month when we remember the Holy Souls, we light a votive candle for each family member who has gone before us, and for whose souls we pray.
Gaudete candle. This is my own little invention. I have a little pink candle I have started keeping in the vicinity of my family altar. On "bad days" I will light it to help me remember St. Paul's command to "rejoice in the Lord always," and St. James' counsel to "Consider it all joy;" to try to be a light to the world myself, to lift up my heart to the Lord, and take strength and solace in the knowledge that through trials he will perfect me.
Perhaps you have a beautiful candle or personal ritual that you love. Tuck your candles into your purse or a box, and I'll see you at Mass. I'll be the one with the candle-packed basket!
Update: Elizabeth Foss has a beautiful reflection on blessed candles at home.
Update 2: Hello, new readers! I have a question for you, if you would be good enough to take a look.