Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday or ‘Mardi Gras’as it is known in other parts of the world, translated to Fat Tuesday in English, falls on a Tuesday in February. It is often followed up with a carnival possession, which we will speak more of in an article about Granville, famous for its Carnvial during Mardi Gras. This is calculated as being 47 days before Easter and this year (2023) if falls on 21 February. This is the ‘feast day’ before you give something up for 40 days for lent, starting on Ash Wednesday but in France it is a little bit different.
Fear not, this is still celebrated in France and you will be able to get your fill of pancakes just a little bit earlier and then again!
In France, Pancake Day, is celebrated on the 2nd of February and is called La Chandeleur or Candelmas in English. It marks the end of the Christmas period coming exactly 40 days after Christmas Eve. It is a Catholic holiday and also marks the return of light, a symbol of protection and prosperity. This tradition dates back centuries and so it continues today and for many more centuries to come no doubt. Candles are lit in the church and the supersition goes, that if you return home without the candle going out, you will stay alive for the year! There are many different traditions and supersituations throughout France depending on the region.
Unfortunately, you don’t get another Public Holiday but you do get to feast yourself on lots of pancakes!
Whilst you can have a savoury pancake in France (galette), this is all about eating crêpes with sugary toppings, with firm favourites such as Nutella, sugar, honey, cream, jam or sprinkles. Now as we are in Normandy, you will find that a dash of Calvados is offered on your crêpe. Well, it would be rude not to!
Most will eat their crêpes in the evening together with family and friends. There is an old age tradition of tossing the pancake, using your right hand and holding a gold coin in the other, to bring good luck. There is also a tradition of tossing the pancake so that it lands on top of the wardrobe. It must remain there for the entire year and will bring you good luck and prosperity. Or a burning deisre to take that pancake down from on top of the wardrobe. You decide.
And it doesn’t stop there. By all accounts if it rains on this day, a fair possibility in Normandy, then it will continue to do so for 40 days. But if it is clear, it means the winter is behind us. However, if it is sunny, this is also not a good thing. By all accounts the coming winter will bring bad luck.
“Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, – Il pleut pendant quarante jours.” (“When it rains for The Chandeleur – it will rain for 40 days.”)
“Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur” (“Sun of The Chandeleur, annouces winter and misfortune.”)
“Quand la chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derrière” (“When The Chandeleur is clear, the winter is behind us.”)
We hope you enjoyed this little insight into what you can expect on 2 February and the history behind it. We’re off to check the weather report.