While North Americans celebrate Groundhog Day on February 2nd, there are many families that celebrate something called La Chandeleur. It’s a day of weather prediction and feasting on crêpes. Let me tell you more about it…
LA CHANDELEUR: THE VIDEO
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WHAT’S LA CHANDELEUR?
As you may have gathered, Chandeleur is a day for making and eating crêpes. It’s an annual tradition in many families (such as Big Papa’s) and marks the end of the Christmas period. On this festive day, crepes are served up in the evening instead of for breakfast, and there are a couple of superstitions to go along with it. Why let the groundhogs have all the fun?
THE ORIGINS OF LA CHANDELEUR
La Chandeleur wasn’t always about crepes. While it’s a family tradition, it is also a Catholic holiday: Candlemas. The word Chandeleur itself stems from the word chandelle, which means candle. Back in the day, this was a day about light, purification and fertility. If this sounds vaguely Pagan, that’s because it is – before it was a Catholic holiday, it was an ancient Roman feast day, known as festa candelabrum, a festival of candles and light celebrating Proserpina’s return from the Underworld.
It is said that crepes are supposed to represent the return of the sun and the soon-to-come end of winter, but for me, this day marks an opportunity for gathering our favourite people around the table for a special meal. While preparing the meal, there are a couple of oddball traditions that are still kept alive today.
I’m not much of a superstitious person, although I sometimes knock on wood. On Chandeleur, I don’t usually participate in the rituals that promise luck and prosperity. For good fortune, hold onto a gold coin (or any denomination of currency as a stand-in for gold) in your left hand, while flipping your first crepe with your right hand. If you don’t catch the crepe in your pan and it falls, you’re out of luck – try again next year! If you succeed with that first crepe of la Chandeleur, store it securely in a drawer or on top of a wardrobe. The superstitions and traditions don’t say how long you’re supposed to keep the crepe there. A week? A month? Until next year? Who wants to rummage through their drawer to find a stale, old crepe anyway? At any rate, I recommend eating all of your crepes!
While Groundhog Day gives you two options for how the rest of the winter season is going to pan out, la Chandeleur gives you four. Granted, three of them call for less than desirable weather, but really, we all know we’re in for more winter either way, right? Instead of being dependent on a furry critter seeing his shadow, la Chandeleur is weather dependent. Therefore, if you look outside your window and it’s raining, you’re in for 40 days of rain. If the sun is shining brightly, you have more winter to look forward to and possibly a bout of bad luck. Sometimes it’s cloudy outside; is that a good thing on Chandeleur? Only if you want 40 more days of winter!
The promise of winter being behind us only appears on a clear day. Like the oddball traditions listed above, I don’t take much stock in the weather predictions. Living in Canada, I have come to expect a good old fashioned Canadian spring year after year. That is to say, I expect it to snow come springtime. It’s the way of the North. Do you want to know what I do look forward to? The dinner.
I haven’t heard much about people throwing dinners to celebrate groundhog’s day, beyond having friends over for an annual viewing of the classic Bill Murray movie that shares its name with that day and serving popcorn or other snacks to accompany the flick. However, Chandeleur is different. It’s the ultimate day to bring out the crêpe pan and mix up a big bowl of batter. I’ve only ever kept this a family affair, but similar to the pizza party potluck concept, you could ask any invitees to bring their favourite crêpe toppings. Since it’s for dinner, I would opt for more savoury crêpes and then serve up a sweet version for dessert.
A TRADITIONAL PAIRING
Crepes are said to have originated in Brittany (Bretagne), a region in northwestern France, bordered by the English Channel to the North and by Normandy to the East. Unbeknownst to me, crepes have long been associated with cider. As it turns out, crepes and galettes (Breton buckwheat crepes) are the region’s most iconic dishes, and there are apple orchards throughout Brittany, which is France’s second-largest cider producing region.
Traditionally, Breton cider is served in bowls. In the olden days, glass and ceramic were rather rare in rural France, and most homesteads made their own dishes and drinking vessels out of fired clay, more often than not. Their “cups” looked more like today’s bowls, as working with clay made it hard to produce slender, fluted glasses. The association between bowls and cider stems from the fact that cider was one of the most common and easiest drinks to make for yourself on a Breton farmstead; a rustic vessel for a rustic beverage.
In the 1920s, a new type of dish arrived in Breton households: the bolée. Bowl-shaped and sometimes equipped with a handle, these new receptacles allowed Bretons to respect their traditions while drinking from finer vessels than their ancestors’ clay bowls. The bolée is an integral part of Breton folklore and adds a touch of rustic charm to your drink. Traditional Breton crêperies will usually serve you crêpes with a bowl of cider; however, stemmed wine glasses are much better suited to truly taste and discover the subtleties of your cider.
Traditional Breton cider is lightly carbonated, a little tannic and slightly bitter. If you want an authentic experience, but can’t get your hands on a Breton bottle, try pairing your crêpes with a cider presenting a similar flavour profile. With all that being said, you can also pair your crêpes with your favorite beer or wine to match your filings! Speaking of which…
IDEAS FOR SAVOURY AND SWEET CREPE FILLINGS
There is no wrong answer when it comes to crepe filings – stuff it to your heart’s content!
A classic Breton recipe is the crêpe complète (roughly translates to an all-dressed crepe): a slice of ham, grated Emmental cheese (similar to swiss), and a fried egg. Yum!
Another Breton recipe, the galette saucisse (sausage crepe), a staple of French street food, calls for a cold buckwheat crepe rolled around a cooked pork sausage, then simply grilled to warm and crisp.
Your only limits are your imagination when it comes to fillings. You can stuff your savoury crepes with cheese, vegetables, seafood or charcuterie, and your sweet crepes with jams, jellies, chocolate… If you’re short on inspiration, here are some ideas from my previous post on crepes:
SAVOURY CREPE IDEAS
Applewood smoked cheddar and thinly sliced apples.
Bacon, eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
Brie and sautéed mushrooms.
Cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers.
Spinach, tomato and feta.
SWEET CREPE IDEAS
Bananas and chocolate hazelnut spread.
Berries and pastry cream or whipped cream.
Lemon curd and blueberries
Plum jam and sour cream
Ricotta, honey and apricots
THANKS FOR DROPPING BY THE KITCHEN!
Have you ever celebrated Chandeleur before? If not, do you think this is something you will try out with your family this year? Groundhog Day is coming up, so why not mash it up with something new and delicious? Besides, who doesn’t like crepes? To grab my crepe recipe, head on right over here for an easy no-nonsense batter. Bon appetit!
PIN IT FOR LATER
Love and gratitude,