The February Celebration of French Candlemas ('Jour des crêpes')

This Catholic holiday is celebrated every year on February 2

plate of French crepes
Isabelle Rozenbaum & Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

The Catholic holiday of Candlemas, celebrated every year on February 2, is a feast of crêpes that's meant to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus.

In France, this holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière or Jour des crêpes. Note that this holiday bears no relation to Lyon's Fête des lumières, which takes place December 5 to 8.

Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on la 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, then flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will supposedly be prosperous for the rest of the year.

There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:

À la Chandeleur, l'hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or gets worse

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

The Crêpe-Throwing Game

Here's a fun way to celebrate la Chandeleur in French classes. All you need are a crêpe recipe, ingredients, paper plates and a small prize, such as a book or a $5 bill.

Thanks to a fellow French teacher for sharing this.

  1. The day before, ask a couple of students to make a pile of crêpes and bring them in to class (or make them yourself). For the sake of an even playing field, the crêpes need to be the same size, about 5 inches in diameter.
  2. Give each student a paper plate and write his or her name on the bottom. The object of the game is to catch a crêpe in the very center of the plate.
  1. Stand on a chair about 10 feet away from the students and throw a crêpe, frisbie-style, for students to catch. Once they catch the crêpe, they can't jiggle or flip it to try to reposition it on the plate.
  2. After each student has caught a crêpe, ask two adults, such as fellow teachers, to come into the room and judge which crêpe is most perfectly centered. The winner gets a prize.
  3. Then you can all celebrate by eating crêpes with an assortment of fillings and/or toppings, which can be sweet or savory.