Candlemas is a holiday that can’t be missed by the gourmets in France: Chandeleur is the day crepes are made and consumed in big amounts.
But one thing at a time, let’s start from the beginning!
The origin of this holiday is unclear, but dates back centuries before the start of Christianism. It could as old as Ancient Greece and pagan festivals, where it was the celebration of the return of light, or Ancient Rome where they used to celebrate the Lupercalia, the festival of purification, during the month of February.
In some part of Italy, people still use the day to start spring cleaning, making space for the new season around the corner. There is a proverb to mark this day as the potential end of winter ‘if the sun shines along with Bora wind‘. Groundhog day, which is celebrated in North America on this day, as a tradition brought over from Europe by German settlers, is in the same spirit.
Candlemas falls every year 40 days after Christmas, the set date of 2nd February is due to Christianity when baby Jesus was brought to the temple in Jerusalem and there, he was recognized as the messiah.
For Christians, this is the last holiday of the cycle of Christmas: it is the time to remove nativity scenes and other decorations. And since we actually still have a wreath hanging on top of our front door, it is the time to put it away!
The name of the holiday refers to Jesus Christ being the Light of the World: Christians would traditionally bring candles to the church, have them blessed and brought home to last throughout winter. Today they are just symbolically lit by a window.
The tasty aspect of this holiday, Chandeleur here in France, is the great amount of crêpes made, in each household, following a different recipe.
My father in law is self-appointed crepe-master. He prepares, like every year, the batter 24 hours in advance, mixing fresh eggs, flour, butter, a pinch of salt and a mix of rhum and pastis. There is no sugar in our mix, as the sweet will be added after being cooked.
If you haven’t prepared your mixture 24 hours in advance, you can still enjoy some crepes today – here is a recipe to try https://cuisine.journaldesfemmes.fr/recette/333415-recette-de-crepes-la-meilleure-recette-rapide.
And for crepes suzette, which is is the style of crepe Anne used in her crepe cake (image), try this recipe from Mardi Michels https://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2022/02/crepes-suzette-recipe/
It is not hard to imagine that to celebrate light, a crepe is the perfect dessert: its round shape recalls the sun and its auspice to the return to longer lighted days.
They say that farmers would flip the first crepe with the right hand, while holding a golden coin with the left in the hope of a prosperous wheat harvest.
Being celiac, I will flip a gluten free crepe later on today, and it won’t matter if it perfectly lands back in the pan: there won’t be any wheat in my veggie garden.
By Simona Palenga, living and eating the good life in the French countryside