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La Chandeleur: Why do the French eat crêpes on February 2nd?
Photo: Flickr/Jack Zalium

La Chandeleur: Why do the French eat crêpes on February 2nd?

The Local · 2 Feb 2016, 10:17

Published: 02 Feb 2016 10:17 GMT+01:00

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The date actually marks when Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem and is known in France as La Chandeleur. 

Traditionally, the French celebrated this holiday by decorating their homes with candles, holding a lantern procession, and of course, eating crêpes.

But why the crêpes?

Here are a few possible explanations.

As well as a religious holiday, Chandeleur is an occasion to rejoice in more sunshine as the days gradually get longer. Apparently a round, golden crêpe just happens to be the perfect snack to symbolize the sun.

Crêpes are also easy to make and were traditionally a good way to use up the extra wheat from the previous year in hopes of a good harvest in the upcoming season.

Before becoming a religious holiday, Chandeleur stemmed from several pagan traditions celebrating the fertility of the earth and the beginning of the end of winter. The Romans called it Lupercalia after Lupercus, the god of fertility and shepherds. The Irish celebrated Imbolc, or the goddess Brigid’s Day, later Christianized to Saint Brigid’s Day. 

It's said that in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I started the Festival des Chandelles on February 2nd, a candlelit procession through the streets of Rome that culminated in placing the blessed candles in the churches. Gelasius linked this custom to crêpes by handing out galettes (a type of salty crêpe) to poor pilgrims who arrived in Rome that day.

Be careful because this holiday is one of the most superstitious days in France.

These days, the most important thing about Chandeleur is obviously the crêpes. 

But you can’t just whip up a batch of crêpes like you would on an ordinary day. A couple of old superstitions dictate the rules for making the crêpes if you want to bring yourself good luck.

Photo: Flickr/Charles Pucheu-Planté

It’s recommended to toss the crêpe in the pan with your right hand while holding a piece of gold in your left. 

An old tradition also saw people putting the first crêpe in a drawer or on top of a wardrobe to attract prosperity for the coming year.

So dig out your crêpe pan and your gold piece and celebrate Chandeleur French-style.

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