Candlemas : The Feast of the Candle or Crêpes?
February 2nd is a pretty big deal in the United States. It’s Groundhog day. The day where a furry animal predicts either 6 more weeks of winter or the coming of spring solely by popping out of his hole and tempting his shadow.
February 2nd is also 40 days after Christmas and in Catholic tradition, the that Jesus is presented to the temple. Here is France, there is no exception. Today, we eat crêpes and plenty of them!
History of the Holiday
La Chandeleur is both a Catholic holiday as well as a pagan holiday. The foundation of this holiday celebrates the ending of a hard and difficult season, and the anticipation of a new and fresh season. Where the days start to become longer, therefore more daylight.
For the pagans, it’s the celebration of the fertility of the earth, the ending of a dark period (aka winter) and the start of something fresh and new (spring). They would make a pancake with the left over flour from the previous harvest, in order to make room for the wheat that will be harvested from the new crops. The Romans celebrated Lupercales (lupercal), in honor of Faunus, the god of herds and fertility, in honor of the first sowing of the grain.
For the Catholics, it is the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple 40 days after his birth. In Catholic tradition, the priest would bless the candles of those who came to pray. The people would then bring the candles home and place them in their windows. During the 5th century, the Pope Gelasius the 1st, celebrated by giving a sort of pancake, galette, to the pilgrims as they came to light candles in honor the Virgin Mary. These galettes, also known as crêpes, are round and when cooked properly, a superb golden colour. They represent light and the sun. A symbol of the time that is yet to come. The days are getting longer and there is warmer and happier weather just around the corner.
Superstitions and Sayings around Le Chandeleur
I’m from central Ohio and it seems that we Ohioans have a saying for everything. So, it makes sense, and feels extremely comforting, that there’s a few sayings in regards to La Chandeleur.
À la Chandeleur, l’hiver se meurt ou prend vigueur.
On Candlemas Days, winter either dies or becomes stronger.
A reference to our own superstition that if the groundhog sees his show it’s 6 more weeks of winter?
Rosée à la Chandeleur, l’hiver à sa dernière heure.
If there is dew on the ground on Candlemas Day, winter is in its last hour.
There’s also the superstition that if you hold a Louis d’Or coin in your left hand while flipping a crêpes in your right hand, your family will have health, happiness and no financial worries in the coming year.
Crêpes à la Berry
- 1.5 cups flour
- 3 each eggs large
- 2 cups Buttermilk see notes for alternatives
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 pinch Salt kosher
- 1 tbsp sugar (1.5 teaspoons if savory)
- Mix dry ingredients together with a fork. Mix the oil and the egg together separately from everything else.
- Add the egg and oil mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing till just combined. Start to add the buttermilk little by little. You are looking for a semi-thick batter like a pancake batter. If you arrive to have added all of the milk and it is not thickish, add a little more buttermilk and mix together.
- If your batter is too thin, add a smidge of flour to thicken it up.
- When your batter is ready, heat your pan with oil on high heat. You want your pan to be super hot before adding the batter. When the oil starts to smoke a little, pull the pan away from the heat source, turn it down to medium and while you are holding your pan off the heat source, add about 1/3 cup of crêpes batter to the pan the middle. As you are doing this, you will want to move the pan in a circular motion which will allow the batter to be evenly distributed throughout the surface of the pan.
- Return the pan to the heat source. Take your spatula and after about 30 seconds, check the edges of the crêpe with your spatula. If the edges peel away easily, you’ll be able flip the crêpe within a matter of seconds. When you agitate the pan and the whole crêpe moves within the pan, you are ready to flip. All I can say is it’s all in the flip of the wrist(s).
- When you flip your crêpe and it has a nice golden color on the underside, you can cook the other side for another 1 to 3 minutes, depends on your heat source. This side will cook quicker than the first side.
- When you have completely cooked a crêpe, place it on a plate and wipe out the oil with a paper towel and spray again with oil and return the heat to high until the oil smokes. When it smokes, turn the heat to medium and repeat the process till you have cooked all your crêpes.
Variations in Flavors
Whether your crêpe is sweet or savory, there is an endless amount of flavor combinations, here are a few of my favorites:
- Butter and sugar.
- Jam with butter.
- Nutella and bananas.
- Cheese slices and fig jam.
- Ham and cheese.
- Ham, cheese, and egg.
- Sour Cream, arugula, sharp cheddar, proscuito.
- Capers, smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Honestly, the world is your oyster! The flexibility of a crêpe is amazing and can adapt to any flavor profile! Let your spirit guide you for flavor combinations.
How do you like your crêpes?