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French Traditions: Chandeleur

On 2nd February each year, French people celebrate La Chandeleur.  In English this is known as Candlemass.

This falls 40 days after Christmas and signifies the day that Jesus was presented at the temple.  The festival was created in 472 by the Pope The name ‘Chandeleur’ comes from the candles that were traditionally used on this occasion.  In churches, they are blessed and replace torches and are left alight to signify light, purity and to keep harm away.  Religious people often bring a blessed candle home and display it in their window on 2nd February.  It is also religious tradition that the nativity scene that is displayed in many houses at Christmas should remain on display until 2nd February.

So why do French people eat crêpes on La Chandeleur?

The round shape and golden colour of crêpes represent the sun and the return to the light.  From February, days also start to get longer and eating of crêpes also refers to the cycle of the seasons and the arrival of spring and brighter days.

This festival is also accompanied by superstitions.  If peasants didn’t make crêpes on this day, they believed that their crops would be bad the following year.  To ensure that the harvest was good and that the year would be financially prosperous, they believed that they had to flip the first crêpe in the air with their right hand while holding a coin (Louis d’Or) in their left hand and also ensuring that the flipped crêpe landed perfectly back into the pan! The crêpe was then conserved on top of a wardrobe or cupboard and supposedly shouldn’t go moldy and should keep misery and deprivation far away.

Many other countries also celebrate this religious feast, each with their own variation of the French tradition. Most other traditions around La Chandeleur which have existed over time such as processions no longer take place.  However the tradition of crêpes remains and why not?  Crêpes are delicious!


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