On February 2nd, many French families traditionally have “crêpes” on their menu. Forty days after Christmas Eve, the “Fête des Chandelles” or “la Chandeleur” is celebrated.
Chandeleur has been celebrated since ancient times. In fact, the Romans celebrated a similar feast in honour of the God Pan. On this day, believers with burning torches walked through the streets of Rome. In 472, the then Pope changed this feast into a religious one, and believers had to take a burning candle from the church to their house. If the candle was still burning when they arrived home, they would not die that year.
But why do we eat pancakes on Chandeleur? One explanation is that the days start to be longer at the beginning of February. Eating pancakes could be a tribute to the rebirth of nature, the cycle of the seasons, and of course springtime. Also, if you ate pancakes for Chandeleur, it prevented the wheat from being wasted.
Another superstition was to bake the pancake with a “Louis d’Or” as a bringer of good luck. Farmers threw the first pancake in the air with their right hand while holding a gold coin in their left hand. Afterwards, this gold coin was put into the pancake. Along with the entire family, this pancake was then placed in the wardrobe for a whole year. This tradition brought good luck for the household’s finances, and is still practiced today!
Nowadays these traditions no longer exist. Only the savouring of crêpes has remained. Every year around this time, you will find the supermarkets packed with “crêpières”, in other words, convenient frying pans to make those beautiful, thin crêpes. Together with huge pots of Nutella, everyone’s favourite topping. Every year I tell myself to bake pancakes on the 2nd of February. I never do. Except for this year, I’ll get right on it!