French Candlemas - La Chandeleur - Crêpe Day

Learn about the French celebration of Chandeleur

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

The Catholic holiday of Candlemas, on 2 February, is a feast 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.

Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on 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, and flip the crêpe into the air.

If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will 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 strengthens

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

French teachers: try the crêpe-throwing game

*No relation to Lyon's Fête des lumières, which takes place from 5 to 8 December.

Here is a fun way to celebrate Chandeleur in French classes - all you need are a crêpe recipe, ingredients, paper plates, and a small prize (such as a book or $5).

  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 fairness, the crêpes need to be the same size, about 5 inches in diameter.
     
  2. Give each student a paper plate and write his/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 was 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, whether sweet or savory.
The crêpe-throwing game was kindly shared by its inventor, Ed Cepress, a French teacher at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, Minnesota. Merci bien !