Pancake Day in France
Apart from the well known Mardi Gras, the nearest French equivalent to Pancake Day is the ‘Fête de la Chandeleur’ (Candlemas), also known as ‘Fête de la Lumière’, or ‘jour des crêpes’.
Originally a religious festival dating back to Roman times, the ‘Fête de la Chandeleur’ celebrates the presentation of Jesus, and marks the end of the Christmas season.
It is celebrated 40 days after Christmas on the 2nd February, and has many proverbs and superstitions surrounding it.
One tradition was to light a candle in the church and carry it home without the flame going out, if you were hoping not to pop your clogs in the coming year.
‘Celui qui la rapporte chez lui allumée. Pour sûr ne mourra pas dans l’année’
The name chandeleur actually comes from the word chandelle or candle, as it is a Christian occasion involving much lighting and blessing of candles. The English word “chandler”, also derives from chandeleur – a sort of grocer who specialised in ship supplies and equipment, and presumably dealt in candles too.
Back to proverbs and superstions, to ensure that the crop would be plentiful for the coming year, it was an absolute must to eat pancakes. But only after 8 pm.
‘Si point ne veut de blé charbonneux Mange des crêpes à la Chandeleur’
Another tradition is to flip a crêpe with one hand whilst holding a gold coin in the other, ensuring that the family will have prosperity throughout the coming year.
Eating pancakes was also a way of using up eggs and butter before Lent, at a time before fridges and freezers allowed us to keep fresh food more or less indefinitely.
Finally…. time to talk about the weather.
‘Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours’.
If it rains at Candlemas, it will continue to rain for 40 days
‘Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur’
A sunny Candlemas will bring winter and misfortune) Oooops! Let’s pray for rain on that day then!
Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derriere; Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte!
If February is clear, winter is behind us. If the Chandeleur is overcast, winter will last another forty days.