At the end of the fourth century, a woman named Etheria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When her journal was discovered in 1887, it uncovered a glimpse into liturgical life of the time. She describes many celebrations, including the Epiphany, the observance of Christ’s birth, and the gala procession to commemorate his Presentation in the Temple 40 days later, on February 15. 

This feast emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple. In the fifth and sixth centuries, observation spread throughout the Western Church. Because the Western Church celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25, the feast of the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days after Christmas. 

In the eighth century, Pope Sergius began a candlelight procession, and by the end of the century, the blessing and distribution of candles was incorporated, which continues to this day. This gave the feast its popular name: Candlemass.