La Chandeleur, A brief History

Today, the French will prepare their crepe batter. They'll uncork a bottle of ‘cidre’, a slightly tangy alcoholic and effervescent drink derived from the apples of Normandy and Brittany. It’s a time for friendly gatherings and warm settings in the midst of winter’s relentless grasp.
It’s the ‘Chandeleur’, a tradition that dates back to Roman times and from which our American tradition of Ground Hog’s Day most likely arose. For both cultures, this second day of February is a day that decides whether winter will kindly melt into spring or cruelly reign for another six weeks. Before unveiling the secret to making these scrumptious delicacies, let’s step back in time.

Ancient roots
In the Middle Ages, it was the bear that came out of his hibernation and upon seeing the sun (or his shadow), returned to his den for another six weeks, quite similar to our ground hog.
Yet, the festiveness and the crepes go back even farther. In ancient Roman times, the Romans were known to eat crepes at the start of February during the ‘Lupercales’ a feast celebrating fertility while welcoming the return of spring and promise of the future harvest.
Still popular among the Christians in the 5th century, the pope replaced the pagan feast with that of the Lord’s presentation at the Temple and was considered the ‘light for all nations’. From there, the Latin name ‘Chandelorum festum’ meaning ‘feast of the candles’ was bestowed upon the occasion.
Early Christians went on to light candles in church. They would form processions that would lead them back to their dwellings where the lighted candles were to provide protection to their homes.
But as superstitions will, it was the crepe tradition that lived on along with the superstitious acts that would bring prosperity.

Legendary superstitions
Legend has it that you must hold a gold (or silver) coin in your left hand while you flip the first crepe. Place the coin in the crepe and place it on top of the wardrobe for one year and it will bring you good luck. But fear unto he whose crepe when flipped, lands crumpled in the skillet or should fall to the floor, for he will not have good luck for one year, until the next Chandeleur.

Abundant Combinations
Ever so French, the food aspect of the tradition took root. Savory, hot crepes wrapped around an assortment of grated cheeses, meats and dairy products are devoured before they can cool.
Once the appetite is satisfied, on come the sweet rewards of the dessert version. Drizzle honey, chocolate sauce or spread your favorite flavored jam on a crepe and gobble it up before burning your fingers.
Try sprinkling them with powdered or granulated sugar or the granddaddy of them all, orange crepes wrapped around a slathering of Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut spread. Divine!
Remember one thing while preparing your crepes, they aren’t pancakes (unless your British!) and shouldn’t resemble them. Crepes are thin and flat. They should be as flexible as tortillas but not as dry.
Think big when making them because these age-old hotcakes know no limits on the appetite. Three savory and three sweet crepes per person is a good average. Serve a green salad with your meal for added fiber.
The traditional recipe here can easily be doubled. With flour, milk and eggs as the main ingredients, they are budget winners. Garnish with whatever tickles your fancy.
Crepes can be made in advance and reheated when ready to use. They will also keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator enveloped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Stuffed and wrapped individually, they can be frozen.
Rich in history and abounding in flavor, crepes are a great way to shake off those old winter blues.





Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought la chandeleur was large set of lights hanging from the ceiling of usually fancy building or home.

Are the French taking credit for the light bulb as well as the chandeluer?

6:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you mean chandeleir. That's the large set of lights you described. Chandeleur is a french holiday also called crêpe day described in the above ariticle. It's kind of like a french groundhog day.

10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oui, la chandeleur is the day crêpes or lights day, but what you mean by "chandelier" in France we call "lustre" a chandelier is a candle holder.
No, we do not pretend to have credit for the light bulb, it was Edison, but the candle holder, of course, came first.
Bon apetit! et merci pour le recettes des crêpes.

3:53:00 PM  
Blogger finola said...

very interesting and potentially delicious! Tweeted and fb'd and tomorrow I eat crepes!

12:34:00 AM  

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