La Chandeleur is a Christian holiday celebrated on 2 February, 40 days after Christmas, in France. Explore the customs and history surrounding this festival.
The festival’s name “Candlemas” or “candlelight festival” is from Latin origin: festacandelarum, from candela, meaning “candle.” Its name expresses the fact that Jesus is the world’s light.
Apparently this holiday was originally a pagan vacation. It was a Roman retreat in god Pan’s favour. The Romans roamed Rome with torches on the evening of the feast. It is also linked to the Roman Parentalia, a celebration in memory of the dead during which the Romans were allocating the god Pluto with candles.
In 472, Pope Gelasius made it a Christian feast that celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Indeed, the pope said the Roman feast had a “purifying” power. Large processions of candlelight are then organized on the day of the feast, and each participant must bring home a candle (without it extinguishing). This candle is blessed and is said to have some powers: if its wax is applied on eggs, it ensures better hatching. Moreover, its flames protect against lightning.
Pancakes (Crêpes) are the tradition which has endured the most. It has been said that if on Candlemas Day they didn’t make pancakes, the wheat of the year would be decayed. The tradition of making pancakes is also celtic: the pancake symbolizes the sun gear and the sacrifice to the gods… Hence the need to do pancakes in order to avoid damages to the wheat.
Cooking the first pancake with a gold coin in one hand was another tradition too. Once the pancake had finished, it was necessary to place the gold coin in the middle of the pancake, before leaving it on a cupboard, until next year, when the coin was retrieved among the pancake’s debris and then given to a beggar. This tradition has the ultimate goal of bringing prosperity to the family all year round!
So, in a few words, this is when and how the Candlemas is being celebrated in France. You can find how to make French crêpes for Candlemas by following this recipe. You can also find out about other traditional French recipes here.