La Chandeleur : What is La Chandeleur?

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La Chandeleur, also known as Candlemas, is a traditional French holiday that is celebrated on February 2nd. The holiday is characterized by the making and eating of crêpes, which is a traditional French dish and is often served with a variety of sweet or savory fillings. La Chandeleur is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends.

Before we start, the French word "Chandeleur" is pronounced as "shan-duh-lur". The emphasis is on the first syllable "shah(n)." The final "r" is silent. It's important to note that there are variations in the pronunciation of words depending on the regions of French-speaking countries…… Now, let’s discover everything about La Chandeleur.

 

What is La Chandeleur?

La Chandeleur, also known as La Fête des Chandelles or Crêpe Day, is a French holiday celebrated on February 2nd. It is traditionally a day to make and eat crêpes, which are thin, delicate pancakes. The holiday has religious origins and is also associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. In the Catholic Church, the day is also called Candlemas because of the tradition of blessing and distributing candles.

The origins of La Chandeleur can be traced back to ancient Rome and the festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15th. The festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and was celebrated with the exchange of gifts and the making of pancakes.

The Christian Church later adopted the holiday, moving the celebration to February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The day is also called Candlemas because of the tradition of blessing and distributing candles. This is where the French name "Chandeleur" comes from.

The custom of eating pancakes on Chandeleur has been around for a long time. It is said to have started as a way for people to use up rich foods such as butter and eggs before the start of the Lenten fast.

In other countries of the world, different holidays and festivals have replaced La Chandeleur. Some examples include:

  • In the United Kingdom and the United States, Pancake Day (also known as Shrove Tuesday) is celebrated on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is the same day as La Chandeleur. Pancake Day is a Christian holiday that is associated with the start of Lent and is similar to La Chandeleur in that it is a time to use up rich foods such as butter and eggs before the start of the fasting period.
  • In Mexico, the holiday of El Día de la Candelaria is celebrated on February 2nd, which is the same day as La Chandeleur. This holiday is associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and is celebrated with religious ceremonies and traditional foods such as tamales and atole.
  • In Italy, the holiday of La Festa della Candelora is celebrated on February 2nd, which is the same day as La Chandeleur. This holiday is associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and is celebrated with religious ceremonies and traditional foods such as crespelle (Italian crepes).
  • In Greece, the holiday of Ta Fota tou Sotira is celebrated on February 2nd, which is the same day as La Chandeleur. This holiday is associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and is celebrated with religious ceremonies and traditional foods such as loukoumades (a fried dough pastry)

All of these festivals, although different in name, are associated with the same religious origins, and are celebrated similarly with the emphasis on eating traditional foods.

 

How is la Chandeleur celebrated in France?

La Chandeleur is celebrated in France by making and eating crêpes. It is traditional to make crêpes with a coin or piece of gold hidden inside, and whoever finds the coin or gold in their crêpe is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. Some people also throw a crêpe in the air with a coin in their hand before catching it with a frying pan, as a symbol of good luck for the future.

Other customs for the celebrations of this day include holding a crêpe in the left hand and flipping it with the right hand while holding a coin in the other hand and making a wish. Some people also light candles and hold them in one hand while flipping the crêpe with the other, as a reference to the religious origins of the holiday.

It is also common to have a family gathering and share a meal together, with crêpes being the main dish. Some French regions have also their own traditions such as Brittany where it is common to eat galettes (savory crêpes) and cider.

 

What do people eat on Chandeleur?

On Chandeleur, it is traditional to eat crêpes. Crêpes are thin, delicate pancakes that can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients. Sweet crêpes are often filled with items such as Nutella, fruit, or whipped cream and are often dusted with powdered sugar. Savory crêpes, called galettes, are often filled with ingredients such as cheese, ham, eggs, or vegetables. In Brittany, a region of France, it is also common to eat galettes and cider. The celebration of Chandeleur is also accompanied by family gathering and a meal together, with crêpes being the main dish. It's worth noting that the custom of eating crêpes on Chandeleur is not limited to France and can be found in other French-speaking countries as well.

It is said that traditionally, the first crêpe made on La Chandeleur was cooked on a "galetière" which is a piece of furniture specifically designed to make crêpes. A galetière is a round, flat griddle that sits on top of a stove or fire and is used to cook crêpes. It is said that the galetière was heated on the fire and the first crêpe was popped on it. The round shape of the galetière and its ability to be heated by a fire make it an ideal tool for making crêpes. It is said that the galetière was an essential piece of equipment in the traditional French kitchen and was passed down from generation to generation.

 

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Why eat crêpes in La Chandeleur ?

La Chandeleur is a time of transition between the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The holiday takes place on February 2nd, which is traditionally considered to be the midpoint of winter. As the days begin to get longer and the weather starts to get milder, La Chandeleur marks the end of the darkest and coldest part of the year and the beginning of the return of light and warmth. The round shape of the crêpe is said to resemble the sun, which is a symbol of light, warmth and renewal. The golden color of the crêpe, which is achieved by cooking it until it is golden brown, is also said to resemble the sun.

The round shape and golden color of the crêpe are also said to symbolize the cyclical nature of time and the return of the seasons. The making and eating of crêpes on La Chandeleur is traditionally associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, which occur during the winter months. The round shape and golden color of the crêpe can be seen as symbols of hope and promise for the coming spring and the renewal of the natural world.

Additionally, the round shape of the crêpe can also symbolize unity and completeness, and the golden color of the crêpe can symbolize prosperity and good luck. This is why it is traditional to make crêpes with a coin or piece of gold hidden inside, and whoever finds the coin or gold in their crêpe is said to have good luck for the rest of the year.

In summary, the French eat crêpes on La Chandeleur as a tradition that combines religious, cultural, and superstitious elements.

There are many French tales and legends about crêpes, many of which are associated with La Chandeleur. One of the most popular tales is about a poor farmer who had nothing to offer his guests but a simple meal of crêpes. When a group of wealthy merchants came to his home, he served them the crêpes, and they were so impressed with the delicious meal that they decided to invest in the farmer's land. As a result, the farmer became wealthy and lived a happy life. This legend explains the custom of making and eating crêpes on La Chandeleur as a symbol of prosperity and good luck.

Another popular tale tells of a young girl who was so poor that she only had flour, salt, and water to make her crêpes. She added a pinch of salt to the batter and made the crêpes with great care, and they turned out to be so delicious that everyone who ate them wanted the recipe. This legend is said to explain the importance of using high-quality ingredients and taking great care when making crêpes.

A more recent tale is about a young boy who was too poor to afford butter, so he used a small amount of oil to make his crêpes. The crêpes turned out to be so delicious that people started to ask for them by the name of "galettes" after the boy. This is how the name "galettes" became associated with savory crêpes made with buckwheat flour.

These are just a few examples of the many tales and legends that have been passed down through generations in French culture about crêpes. They reflect the deep cultural and historical significance of crêpes in French cuisine and tradition.

 

Here are a few fun facts about La Chandeleur:

  1. In French, the word "crêpe" comes from the Latin word "crispa" meaning "curled" or "wrinkled," which describes the appearance of the thin pancakes.
  2. According to French tradition, if you can flip a crêpe with a coin in your hand and catch it in the pan, you will have good luck for the rest of the year.
  3. In some French regions, it is also traditional to predict the weather for the rest of the year based on the weather on La Chandeleur. If it's sunny, it's said to mean a good harvest, if it's cloudy, it's said to mean a harsh winter.

 

By the way, do you know how to make a good crepe?

Here are two basic crêpe recipes: one for sweet crêpes and one for savory crêpes (galettes).

Sweet Crêpes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, water, melted butter, sugar, and salt until smooth.
  2. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  4. Once the skillet is hot, ladle about 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet, swirling the skillet to coat the bottom evenly.
  5. Cook the crêpe for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  7. Serve the crêpes with your desired filling such as Nutella, fruit, whipped cream or any other sweet toppings.

Savory Crêpes (Galettes):

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, water, milk, eggs, and salt until smooth.
  2. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  4. Once the skillet is hot, ladle about 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet, swirling the skillet to coat the bottom evenly.
  5. Cook the crêpe for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  7. Serve the crêpes with your desired filling such as cheese, ham, eggs, vegetables or any other savory toppings.

Note: For the sweet crêpes recipe, you can also use all-purpose flour. However, for savory crêpes you should use Buckwheat flour which gives a unique taste and texture to the crêpe.

 

The origins of the crêpe are uncertain and it is likely that similar dishes have been made by different cultures for centuries. Crêpes are believed to have originated in Brittany, a region in the northwest of France, where buckwheat was a staple crop. The first crêpes were probably made by farmers or villagers from buckwheat flour, water, and milk.

The earliest known reference to crêpes can be found in a Latin text from the 15th century, which describes a thin pancake made from wheat flour, water, and eggs. The recipe and the name (crespella or crepula) are very similar to the current crepes, but the recipe didn't have milk.

It's worth noting that Crêpes are similar to other traditional dishes such as the Italian crespelle, the German Pfannkuchen, and the Welsh Crempog, which are all made from a similar batter and can be filled with sweet or savory ingredients.

 

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Some beliefs and customs associated with La Chandeleur, such as the importance of eating crêpes are reflected in many popular proverbs:

  • "Si la Chandeleur est claire, l'hiver sera rude" (If Candlemas is clear, the winter will be harsh)
  • "Si la Chandeleur est pluvieuse, l'hiver sera doux" (If Candlemas is rainy, the winter will be mild)
  • "A la Chandeleur, on mange des crêpes pour ne pas être crevé" (On Candlemas one eats crepes so as not to be penniless)
  • "A la Chandeleur, tout est permis" (On Candlemas, anything goes)
  • "La Chandeleur, jour de l'amour et de la fête, où l'on mange des crêpes à satiété" (Candlemas, day of love and celebration, where one eats crepes to satiety)
  • "Qui fait des crêpes à la Chandeleur, n'aura jamais faim" (Who makes crepes on Candlemas will never go hungry)

 

To conclude, La Chandeleur is a traditional French holiday that is celebrated on February 2nd, which is associated with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The holiday has a religious origin and is also known for the making and eating of crêpes, which is a French traditional dish. It is a time of transition between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and it is a day of charity and hope for the coming spring, and it is a reminder of the cyclical nature of time and the return of the seasons. The custom of eating pancakes on Chandeleur is said to have started as a way for people to use up rich foods such as butter and eggs before the start of the Lenten fast. It is also associated with many proverbs and legends, as well as superstitions, such as the belief that finding a coin or gold in one's crêpe brings good luck for the rest of the year. Although, different countries have different names for this day, it's all related to the same religious origins and is celebrated similarly with the emphasis on eating traditional foods.

 

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