On the second of February, there are no groundhogs involved in France. No shadows to be seen except for those caused by the flipping of crêpes. While January is the month of the galette des rois, February is the month of crêpes. Those who studied French probably know February 2 as la Chandeleur. However, did you know it’s not just about the crêpes? I didn’t really know. I knew there was some religious significance once upon a time, but until I went to church and everyone was given a candle, started singing, holy water was sprinkled, and then there was a procession (and even then I was still kind of lost), I had no idea there was still any religious significance left to the holiday and that it wasn’t just about the crêpes. While proceeding in, I found one of my friends and, completely confused, slipped into the pew with her. After mass, I asked her what in the world was going on. Turns out la Chandeleur is the Christian holiday that celebrates Jesus’ presentation at the temple. The presentation was done as an act of purification and Jesus was recognized as the light of the world. The candles, “les cierges”, are supposed to represent the light of Jesus and are to be taken home (oops) to protect against the darkness of evil.
I’d thought its roots were pagan, and technically, they are, just as many Christian holidays have links to pagan ones. The pagan holiday it originated from is Celtic, which perhaps explains the link to crêpes in France, typical of the Bretagne region which has strong Celtic roots. Crêpes also sort of resemble the sun. In the Celtic tradition, peasants proceeded through their fields carrying torches, asking their goddess to purify their fields before they were sowed. It was a holiday that celebrated purity and nearing winter’s end.
I did indeed enjoy some crêpes yesterday with Briana and her host mom. I forgot to take pictures. Sorry. The crêpes were yummy, though. Instead, I give you kissing groundhogs as a sincere apology. I hope this is an acceptable alternative.