While the US and Canada are waiting for the groundhog to poke its cute little head out of its hole on groundhog day, French people
gorge out on eat crepes to celebrate “la Chandeleur” which has deep religious roots.
Very few countries celebrate “La Chandeleur”, known as Candlemas in English, by eating crepes except Belgians and maybe some French Canadians. I remember my aunt flipping a crepe while holding a coin a few times but it wasn’t a regular thing for us.
Can you imagine— a whole day dedicated to eating the equivalent of French pancakes?
It just doesn’t get any more cliché than that.
Do you know how to pronounce Crêpe in French?
Crepe is pronounced “K-R-E-P” (rhymes with YEP). Click play below to hear how Crêpe is pronounced.
“La Chandeleur” comes from the French word chandelle (candle) and refers to the custom when clergymen would bless candles before lighting and distributing them to people for the mass.
The light of the candle is symbolic of Christ as “the light of the world” which explains why Chandeleur is also known as “Fête de la Lumière” (celebration of the light), not to be confused with Lyon’s “Fête des lumière” in December which means festival of lights.
This celebration of lights was to commemorate three occasions in the Christian religion.
- The presentation of Jesus Christ
- Jesus’ first entry into the temple in Jerusalem
- The purification of the Virgin Mary’s ( in Catholic churches). Women were considered impure for six weeks after giving birth. (all Jewish mothers went to the Temple for the ceremony called the Purification.)
Why do French people eat crepes during Candlemas
Despite its religious roots, “La Chandeleur” is now somewhat of a nonsecular tradition in France so everyone, no matter what their religion can partake in eating crepes.
It’s all about superstitions
You’d be hard-pressed to find a French person who can tell you why they eat crepes for Chandeleur but the custom can be traced back to superstitions that date back to the Roman times.
It was believed if you made crepes, it would bring you good fortune and a good wheat harvest. But the crepe had to be made a special way.
“He who eats crepes for Chandeleur is sure to have money all year long”
(Qui mange des crêpes quand la Chandeleur est arrivée, est sûr d’avoir argent pendant l’année.)
“If you don’t want rotten wheat, eat crepes during Chandeleur”
( Si point ne veut de blé charbonneux Mange des crêpes à la Chandeleur)
The tradition of flipping a crepe while holding a gold coin
You were supposed to flip the first crepe in a pan with your right hand while holding a gold coin (preferably a gold Louis coin) in your left hand. The gold coin was then rolled into the crepe and placed in the master’s room on top of a cabinet until the following year.
The following year, the coin was removed from the year-old crepe and given to the first poor person they met to ensure prosperity until the next chandeleur. Makes me think of good karma.
Peasants also believed that by eating crepes, they were ensuring a healthy wheat harvest for the coming year.
Today, candlelight processions and other rites no longer exist but the tradition of eating crepes on Chandeleur remains and although extremely rare, some people still do flip the first Chandeleur crepe holding a coin.
The interesting link between Chandeleur and groundhog day
Now that you know that national crepe day is actually called “la Chandeleur” in French and also “Fête de la Lumière”, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with groundhog day?
For starters, both Chandeleur and groundhog day fall on the 2nd of February, but they have much more in common than just the same date.
The groundhog tradition shares some of the same weather folklore or beliefs are associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe.
For instance, here is an English song which talks about the weather which by now you’ve figured out was important for the upcoming harvests.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
The groundhog day tradition sounds pretty similar.
If the groundhog sees its shadow, this means thirty days of winter still remain and it goes back into its hole. If the groundhog DOES NOT see it’s shadow than spring is right around the corner. In the US and Canada it’s a groundhog, but in many other cultures, the groundhog is replaced by another animal.
For instance, in parts of France, it’s believed that if the bear comes out of his cave and sees that the sky is clear, it goes back to its cave to sleep for another 40 days or 6 weeks because it knows that the clear sky is only temporary. In other parts of France, it’s a wolf or otter while in Ireland it’s a hedgehog.
How do you eat crepes
Crêpes are usually eaten with different kinds toppings such as Nutella, confiture or a sprinkling of sugar but never maple syrup.
Some people also drink cider with the crepes.
But crepes aren’t just reserved for Chandeleur in France. It’s eaten all year round usually for dinner, lunch or as a dessert but not for breakfast.
- Jour de la Marmotte =Ground hog day (like the movie)
- crepe “K-R-E-P= A thin French pancake
- La Chandeleur = Candlemas.
- Le jour de crepe = Crepe Day
- Celebration of light = fête de la lumière