It was a tiny bit of religion and a whole lot of superstition but mainly it was a ritzy excuse to eat recklessly without feeling guilty.
Ambassador Francois Delahousse of France hosted an evening on 2 February 2019 in celebration of La Chandeleur, literally the candlemas or holiday of candles. Nevertheless, nowadays it is just the occasion to eat lots and lots of crêpes.
The religious bit is that 2nd of February is the 40th day after the birth of Jesus Christ (Peace Be On Him), and it is believed that it was the day He was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.
The superstitions attached to La Chandeleur are various and many.
For instance, it’s recommended to toss the crêpe in the pan with your right hand while holding a piece of gold in your left – for good luck of course.
Another old tradition also saw people putting the first crêpe in a drawer or on top of a wardrobe to attract prosperity for the coming year.
The origins of the celebration go back to Roman times, but over the centuries many French regions have thrown in a string of their own superstitions to prevent the worst from happening, or indeed to bring their family fortune.
The celebration is supposed to start after sunset. Traditionally, the candles had to be lit at midnight as a symbol of purification.
The freshly thrown crêpe resembles the Sun, a symbol of life and fertility.
Ambassador Delahousse spoke eloquently and beautifully about La Chandeleur but our hearts and minds were in the delicious crêpes waiting in the other room. The undeniable law of physics prevailed that Delahousse is no match for the combined power of sweet and salty crêpes.
* * *
Pagan or Christian, people always had a general sense of psychology although we were not aware of it until Freud came along to frighten the living hell out of us.
The festival of La Chandeleur is also the time to pay respect to our distant ancestors who are lost in the mist of time. They learned through trial and error how to live the life to its fullest. And they created ways to pass their knowledge, and wisdom, to us.
They knew somehow that eating something scrumptious abundantly in one sitting will curb its desire for quite some time. The start of February is the right time to indulge in culinary misdeeds because the metabolism is still on the winter speed. Eating lots of crêpes now is a good way to satisfy the urge and sail through the warm season without risking the dietary imbalance.
They also understood that we are, by and large, superstitious by nature – and we respond to symbolism.
The Sun as a symbol of life and fertility, the confidence in the next crop, the comradeship that is built by the common traditions, and the occasion to satisfy all the five senses simultaneously is a delightful combination.
In the spirit of La Chandeleur, a very productive and rewarding year to us all. /// nCa, 4 February 2019 (some passages taken from The Local)
Here are some pictures from the memorable evening: