This fête des chandelles or candles, refers to the blessing of candles which traditionally took place on this day. From Pagan origins, even today, there are many traditions and superstitions are associated with it.
One tradition was to light a candle in the church and carry it home without the flame going out. If you managed it, this meant that you would not die in the coming year.
To ensure that the crop would be plentiful for the coming year, it was believed to be absolutely essential to eat pancakes on this day.
If the elected tosser could flip a crêpe with one hand while holding a gold coin in the other, the family was assured of prosperity throughout the coming year.
At a time before fridges and freezers, eating pancakes was also a way of using up eggs and butter before Lent.
Many sayings featuring la Chandleur became popular:
Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours.
If it rains at Candlemas, it will continue to rain for 40 days.
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.
Here are some fun things you can do to celebrate la Chandeleur with your friends and family.
- Have a crepe party and try your hand at flipping crepes ! Faire sauter des crêpes is something of an art form in France. Remember that for good luck, hold a gold coin in one hand while you flip the crepe with the other.
- Enjoy the crepes with sugar, jam, chocolate, or Nutella.
- The traditional drink to accompany crepes is hard apple cider (which can be replaced by sparkling apple cider sans alcohol!)
- Create ambiance for this fête de la lumière by lighting candles around your house.