And so today we celebrate the day that Mary, forty days after the birth of Christ, went into the Temple to redeem her new-born Son and to be purified. The offering that was prescribed with this ritual was a lamb, or two turtle doves or pigeons if the lamb could not be afforded. Mary and Joseph presented two turtle-doves.
The celebration of this day spread out from Jerusalem, and is attested to in Antioch in 526 AD. It is not until the end of the 7th century AD that the procession with candles (not commonly celebrated any more) was added. The significance of the candles foreshadows their use at the Easter Vigil, commemorating the words of Simeon the High Priest, upon receiving the Child Jesus in the Temple:
“At last, all-powerful Master, give leave to your servant to go in peace, according to your promise. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all nations: the light to enlighten the Gentiles, and give glory to Israel, your people.”