It’s La Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière today. You might know it as Candlemas, and if you’re English, you’ve probably not given it a thought, or even knew it existed.
Here in France, you’ll certainly know all about it. If you’re Catholic, you’ll remember the day as the one in which the Virgin Mary was purified after giving birth, and Jesus himself was presented at the Temple.
Catholic or not, the French eat a lot of crêpes today. Apparently, whilst making them, it’s traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the pancake in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year. It’s exactly half way though the official winter season, in any case. Pancakes perhaps look a little like the sun, so they stand in for the sun – ‘la lumière’.
More important than eating however, is seeing what Winter is thinking. He pays the day a lot of attention. He has decisions to make. On this day, Winter will either pack his bags and disappear till the end of Autumn, or he’ll settle in, and make his presence thoroughly felt for quite a few more weeks. Hence the expression:
À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
At Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens.
It looks pretty much as though he’s decided though. Today the temperatures plunge from a high of minus 3, to a low of minus 10 (and feeling like minus 16), and the ten day forecast is worse. Tomorrow, for example, it promises to be minus 9 at 10.00 a.m. and feel like minus 16.
It’s quite nice not to have to wait till Shrove Tuesday for the first pancakes of the year though. Even better that we can be snug indoors today and hope for Winter to knock off duty.