According to Mosaic Law, a new mother was considered unclean for 40 days after she had given birth. At the end of that period, she would enter the temple with her child, bringing an offering of either a lamb and a dove or pigeon, or two doves or pigeons, to be cleansed by prayers. Today’s feast commemorates Mary’s symbolic submission to that process, and also to the presentation of Jesus in the temple. The presentation stands as the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.
The observance of this feast began in 4th-century Jerusalem, and was celebrated in Rome by the 5th-century. It is a feast of both Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. In the Eastern Church, it was called The Meeting of Jesus and Mary with Simeon and Anna, representatives of the Old Covenant.
In the Middle Ages, a tradition began of blessing candles and holding a procession of light on this day. As a result, this feast is also known as Candlemas: Christ our light has come to us.