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La Chandeleur: un histoire

February 4, 2012

La Chandeleur Feb 2 12 007

La Chandeleur was yesterday. It’s a French holiday which translates to Candlemas. La Chandeleur has a few names, actually. This day is also known as “Groundhog’s Day” in American & Canada and also marked as both la Fête de la Lumière/Feast of Lights, and La jour des crêpes/Day of Crêpes. It is widely celebrated throughout la francophonie as THE day to eat crêpes. Once, it even marked the official start of the “crêpe season.”

This year, we fêted La Chandeleur at our house and my cousin taught me the tricks. And really, they truly aren’t difficult to make. I had tried when I lived in France, and even at home after, but I never had much success until my cousin showed me how. Turns out, it is very simple. Using stuff you probably already have, you can make fantastic crêpes at home. And one recipe will make about 20, so, like the French, you can keep a stash of crêpe in your house for a day, or two after this fun holiday.

Even without making crêpes, the history behind La Chandeleur is fascinating. It is always fêted on Feb. 2, a feast day in the Catholic calendar which commemorates the jewish ritual cleansing and purification of the Virgin Mary after having given birth and more importantly also marks the presentation of baby Jesus at the temple/to the world officially. So, this day also is celebrated as the “Fête de la Lumière” or The Feast of Lights, as Chris is the Light of the World. And that is where the crêpe comes in. The humble crêpe. The crêpe is yellow, hot and golden, like the sun, which therein reminds us of how Christ is the Light of the World. So, as this message is very important, it’s important to remember it. And thus the fun thing about the day is it is believed to ensure a lucky year, il faut manger des crêpes / one must eat crêpes!

Really? Truth be told, a lot of French folks don’t recall why they eat crêpe on Feb. 2 each year. Because not only do you eat crêpes (and therefore drink low-alcohol, very drinkable cidre) but it’s also a day of predictions (and sometimes games). La Chandeleur is also in fact the basis for the secular American “Groundhog’s day” which is also a day to make predictions about the coming year.

Historically though, the crêpe season season (as all food was seasonal during these times) would go on until Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, when just before lent everyone would gobble up their remaining crêpe before fasting. Therein, the source of the tradition of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday, as crêpes are often referred to as “French pancakes.”)

So, to make the crêpes you just have to call out the big guns: patience and those fingertips. The crêpe batter is the easiest thing in the world (thanks, Alton). The trick is to quickly rotate the pan to cover it evenly (a hole or two will not ruin it), ideally a full shot glass used on a ~10” nonstick surface. Then, wait. Once it begins to curl (you can aid it by nudging the edges with a spatula), slide your spatula under to loosen it and then get in there and just flip it over by holding on with your fingertips.

In France, they also have cute sayings for La Chandeleur that rhyme. These rhymes draw a clear reference to the secular American holiday of Groundhog’s day.

They are also fun to say. Try them out:

Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure / Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour

À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur / On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens

À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures / On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte / Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost

One Comment leave one →
  1. Juju cRAWFORD permalink
    February 9, 2012 1:28 pm

    Where did you get this world of information?Thoroughly enjoyed reading ti.Thank you for your knowledge. Love and kisses to you

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