Crêpe-lovers rejoice! Today is La Chandeleur (Candlemas), which means crêpes! Many French families will have a massive crêpe-making session tonight, school cafeterias will serve these thin pancakes to children, and while strolling through the market, you may suddenly find a warm, freshly-made crêpe thrust into your hand – for free!
Keep reading to find out more about this delicious French tradition!
History of La Chandeleur
La Chandeleur (Candlemas) is a muddle of pagan and Christian traditions that have existed since ancient times. In ancient Rome, it was a celebration to honor Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, where they would march in the streets, waving lit torches. In the early Middle Ages, the Roman festival was Christianized to celebrate Jesus’s presentation to the temple and the Virgin Mary’s purification. To this day, many Catholic churches celebrate La Chandeleur with candlelight processions.
In medieval Anglo-Saxon culture, February 2nd also marked the traditional celebration of the coming of Spring. February 2 falls smack in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox, signaling the return of sunlight and spring’s beginning. People would thus make offerings to the grain goddess on this date – hoping for a short winter – and engage in ritualistic “spring cleaning” of their homes. Weather superstitions were formed around the date, hence the fun rhyming Chandeleur proverb:
Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver par derrière, Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte.
(When Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if Candlemas is overcast, 40 days of winter to last.)
Americans are bound to recognize shades of Groundhog Day here!
The Crêpe Connection: Traditions and Superstitions
So, how did La Chandeleur come to be synonymous with eating crêpes? It’s said that the round golden pancakes bear a resemblance to the sun, reminding the people of the forthcoming warmth and fertility of spring. The tradition may also be rooted farming superstition that if you didn’t eat pancakes on February 2nd, the wheat crops would be decayed for the year.
While multiple traditions and superstitions surrounded the eating of crêpes in medieval times, only a few of these persist in France today. A favorite French tradition is that you must hold a gold coin in your writing hand, while flipping a crêpe into the air with the other. If you manage to catch the crêpe in your crêpe pan, your family will become rich that year.
Some families throw the first crêpe at an armoire (wardrobe) to see if it sticks. If it does, you should leave it there for a year! Other families are said to throw the first crêpe over the wardrobe.
Types of Crêpes
Most Anglo-Saxons know crêpes as a sweet dessert made from white flour. But in addition to these the French love savory crêpes made from buckwheat flour, called galettes de sarrasin or galettes de blé noir; or wheat flour, crêpes de froment. The most popular version is called la complète: it’s composed of ham, emmental cheese and an egg.
And, of course, sweet crêpes are also popular here for dessert or a snack. They’re often served simply with butter and sugar, slathered in Nutella, or wrapped around such delicious fillings as salted butter and caramel. If you’ve got a real sweet tooth, you can also add slices of bananas and fresh whipped cream.
Where to Find Great Crêpes in Paris
Crêperies and crêpe stands abound in Paris, but certain areas are more well-known for these pancakes than others. The rue du Montparnasse, near the Gare Montparnasse rail station, is especially famous for its tasty crêpe restaurants. This area gained its reputation for great crêpes because the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Bretagne, an area in northwestern France where crêpes are a particular specialty. Bretons moving to Paris settled in the area around the Gare Montparnasse area and brought their crêpe recipes with them.
The most famous restaurant on rue Montparnasse is Crêperie Josselin, which often has lines of customers waiting to get in. You’ll also enjoy La Creperie Plougastel, a popular Breton crêperie a little farther down the street, or Ty Breiz, which is just a few blocks from the Gare. Not far away is also 142 Crêperie Contemporaine, which brings chic and modernity to the crêpe scene.
Outside of the Montparnasse area, the most well-known crêperie is probably the trendy Breizh Café in the Marais, famous for their delectable buckwheat galettes. And if you happen to be over in the Latin Quarter, check out Crêperie de Cluny. You can also eat marvelous crêpe in Montmartre. After climbing 300 steps to the top, you will enjoy this street full of crêperies just next to the famous Basilic Sacré Coeur.
Simple Crêpe Recipe by FAYLI
Why not celebrate La Chandeleur by making your own crêpes at home? Try this easy crêpe recipe… and learn some French while you’re at it!
Ingredients (for approx. 15 crêpes)
- 300 g (1-1/3 cups) flour
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 liter (3 cups) of low-fat milk
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of rum or vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
1. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.
Battre les œufs dans un bol à part.
2. In a second bowl, combine flour with salt and sugar, making a well in the center.
Dans un autre récipient, mélanger la farine avec le sel et sucre, faire un puit au centre.
3. Pour the beaten eggs into the center of the flour well, then mix with a whisk.
Verser les œufs battus dans le centre du puit de farine, puis mélanger avec un fouet
4. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Once milk is fully added, whip vigorously until fully combined.
Ajouter progressivement le lait en mélangeant continuellement pour éviter la formation de grumeaux. Une fois le lait ajouté, battre vigoureusement jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit homogène
5. Mix in the rum or vanilla extract thoroughly, then let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.
Bien mélanger avec le rhum ou l’extrait de vanille, puis laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes
6. Heat a large, shallow non-stick pan with a small piece of butter.
Faire chauffer une poêle non adhésive avec un petit morceau de beurre
7. Ladle about a half-cup of the batter into the hot pan and cook the crêpe on each side for about 30 -60 seconds.
Verser une demi-louche de pâte dans la poêle chaude et faire cuire la crêpe de chaque côté environ 30-60 secondes
8, Remove from pan and add your favorite topping: granulated sugar, melted butter, Nutella, sliced bananas or strawberries, or honey.
Retirer de la poêle et ajouter votre garniture préférée: sucre en poudre, beurre fondu, Nutella, bananes en rondelles, fraises ou miel
What’s your favorite kind of crêpe? Share with us below!