Crêpes de la Chandeleur (Candlemas Pancakes) for Candlemas Day
The 2nd of February is Candlemas Day – this ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter (the half way point between the shortest day and the spring equinox) and also the end of Epiphany. The day is named after the practice of bringing all the future year’s supply of candles in to church, whereupon they were blessed, hence Candle and Mass, although the word has been compounded into “Candlemas” (with one “s”) now. Candles were very important and a potent symbol of light and hope – many people thought that they protected them against the plague, hunger and many other diseases and illnesses. In Scotland, children used to bring candles into school on this day, to light the dark and gloomy day with flickering lights. The children were also supposed to raise money, which they gave to the teachers who would buy sweets for the class, and then the ritual of choosing a “Candlemas King and Queen”was decided, and awarded to the girl and boy who had brought the most money into school! Apart from it being a day of light and candles, it is also a day of pancakes, goddesses, poems, weather predictions and proverbs. (http://french.about.com/od/culture/a/chandeleur.htm)
Also known as Imbolc, (the old Celtic name) or Brigid’s (pronounced BREED) Day, this day is one of the four Celtic “Fire Festivals, commemorating the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden and it celebrates the first signs of Spring. This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, such as the first sprouting of leaves and flowers. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. (http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/imbolc.asp) Believe it or not, it was also the day when all the Christmas decorations were taken down too – the holly, ivy and mistletoe that they’d brought into the house at Christmas, which were then replaced with other greenery that suggested the coming of spring. Robert Herrick devotes a poem to this practice, in a very eloquent way.
CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMAS EVE
Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.
The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter’s eve appear.
Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.
But as I mentioned before, it is also a day of pancakes! In France they call it Chandeleur and many piles of crepes are eaten. Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune-telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year. My French friend Karine, whose family are from Breton, also add a good glug of Calvados to their pancake batter too!
À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens
À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours
Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost
Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour
I will be partaking in a stack or two of pancakes, well, maybe three or four, and I will leave you with a selection of pancake recipes that I have already posted on the bog, the most suitable ones for Candlemas day being my Quire of Paper Pancakes with Lemon & Sugar. See you later, and have a flipping good Saturday! Karen