Sunlight, abundance, celebration. Not words you typically associate with February. And while February 2 is Groundhog Day in the US, a day when we check the news to find out if our most famous groundhog has seen his shadow, in France it is a time to enjoy the delicious sweet or savory treat, the crêpe!

Religiously, February 2 is known in the Christian faith as Candlemas (Candlemass). It marks the day that Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem and is celebrated by Christians bringing candles to church to be blessed. The candles serve as a symbol of Jesus, who is known in the faith as the Light of the World. However, before becoming a religious holiday, this date was fêted by pagans celebrating the fertility of the earth and the end of winter (obviously the pagans did not live in New England!).

Celebrating Candlemas with crêpes is said to have started in the 5th century with Pope Gelasius I who started a candlelit procession around Rome and handed out galettes, the crêpe’s salty cousin, to the pilgrims who came to Rome for the procession.  It seems only natural the food would be associated with this holiday, as the crêpe’s shape and color inspires thoughts of sunshine, which points to brighter days ahead.¹

La Chandeleur is a very superstitious day for the French. In order to foresee financial luck, one tradition states you should hold a coin in one hand and flip the crêpe in another. If you flip the crêpe without it falling on the floor, you will receive prosperity during the year.

Did you know that the infamous French leader, Monsieur Napoléon Bonaparte, had his own similar superstition?  He believed if he flipped a crêpe and it didn’t land on the floor, he would win his battles. In 1812, while Napoléon was preparing his military campaign into Russia, he celebrated la Chandeleur, flipping crêpe after crêpe successfully. He continued to flip additional crêpes, believing each successful flip would mean another battle won. This continued until the fifth crêpe was flipped but fell promptly to the floor. Despite this prophesied misfortune, Napoléon pursued his campaign which ended in tremendous carnage for the French troops not only in battle, but also in a Moscow fire and a terrible Russian winter. It is said that in retreat Napoléon even cited the fifth crêpe as the reason for his misfortune.²

Whatever your superstitions, la Chandeleur is a fun event to celebrate with your choice of crêpes and their toppings. Whether you like sugar and lemon, strawberry jam, nutella and bananas, or some other combination, you can’t go wrong. And come by for our family-friendly Chandeleur event coming up on Saturday, February 1! Don’t forget to register today!

¹  La Chandeleur: Why do the French eat crêpes on February 2nd? https://www.thelocal.fr/20180201/why-do-the-french-eat-crepes-on-le-chandeleur, published February 1, 2018
² Hénaut, Stéphane & Mitchell, Jeni (2018).  A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment.  New York, New York: The New Press.

Natalie Collet

Membership Manager

From the Midwest, Natalie is a Francophile at heart. Her interest in French started when studying ballet and​ the language and culture entranced her through her student years.​ She became involved with the - Alliance - in the suburbs of Chicago after she spent an unforgettable year teaching English in a French high school near Bordeaux. She is happy to join the team in Boston and work with the members to provide them with unique opportunities​, ​quality programming​, and a community through French! [line_break /][line_break /] [email_link email="ncollet@frenchculturalcenter.org"]Contact[/email_link]

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