My husband was born and raised in France in the small village of Beaumont, so small that it’s rarely found on any map. To give an idea of where it is situated it is just outside the better known city of Poitiers in the region of La Vienne. One of the most fascinating things to me whenever we visit our family in France is the observation of all of the old customs and traditions, some of which are perhaps observed most zealously in the French countryside as opposed to the big cities of France.
His parents, Jean and Roseline, have a small farm and vineyard. Maman Roseline is an amazing cook and the greater part of her cooking repertoire is very traditional, country cuisine. No matter how long or short our visit, it is guaranteed that we’ll come back to the US a few pounds heavier than when we left!
A French tradition that we keep here, in just the same way as we know his parents and siblings will be keeping it, is the tradition of La Chandeleur. Every February 2nd my husband prepares the crêpe pan, takes the batter that he makes the night before (best when it chills in the fridge for +/- 24 hours), gets out the gold coin that was given to him by his grandparents many years ago, and our family makes crêpes!
The filling can be anything. Sometimes we have them for dinner with assorted savoury fillings (ham & gruyère or swiss cheese, for example) topped with Béchamel sauce. For dessert, spread with Nutella with or without slices of banana; or strawberries topped with creme fraiche… or just spread with butter and a sprinkling of sugar. Sometimes we make them into French-style sundaes, rolled up with ice cream and hot fudge, topped with whipped cream.
The tradition that is observed in making the crêpes is to hold a coin in your hand (hence the gold coin from his grandparents, given specifically for La Chandeleur), when flipping the crêpe in the pan, believed to bring prosperity for the year. Whether it really does or not is pure speculation, but the one year we forgot to make crêpes on the 2nd of February my husband’s position was lost in a company reorganization! Happily not for long, but it serves as a very strong reminder to observe La Chandeleur without fail!
La Chandeleur coincides with our Groundhog Day, and these proverbs for Chandeleur show a similarity between the two:
*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