Le Chandeleur February 2nd each year – the Transition from Winter to sun
Le ‘Chandeleur’, is a tradition dating back thousands of years to Roman times and from which the American tradition of Ground Hog’s Day most likely arose. (Whether Mr Groundhog went back into his burrow because the weather was still too cold or whether he came out to greet the sun…)
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.
First, it was the Roman celebration of Pan (like Mr Tumnus the Faun in the Narnia books) and the Romans connected him to the coming of spring and a healthy harvest. Romans danced throughout the night in his honor, careful to keep their torches alight to welcome Pan back from the slumber of winter.
In 472, with the advent of the new religion of Christianity, the Pope renamed the festival Candlemas and torches give way to candles. Tall, tapered candles, les chandelles in French, took on the symbolism of Jesus as the bringer of light. Candlelit processions were organized from churches at sunset and then the family would then feast on crêpes, their round shape evoking the return of the sun after the dark of winter, another co-opted pagan symbol. The peasants believed that if they did not eat crêpes on la Chandeleur, their harvests would not be plentiful in the coming year.
Now it is just an excuse to eat crêpes with family in friends in France!