The crêpe and the groundhog

February 2nd, 2010

A crocus catching sunlight on February 2

Forty days after Christmas, the end of winter and return of longer days are cause for celebration.  Whether you call it Chandeleur, Maslenitsa/Mavénitsa or Ground Hog Day, how do you welcome brighter days ?  It isn’t only about eating crêpes, though many do in France, but the old rhymes point to the same iffy weather prediction system based on ground hogs and sunlight:  if the ground hog sees his shadow, forty more days of cold weather will follow. Before tucking into a hot crêpe, a Frenchman might say….

à la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur (On Chandeleur, winter ends or gathers strength)

à la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures (On Chandeleur, the day grows by 2 hours)

Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte (When snow covers all on Chandeleur, we will lose 40 days)

Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure (Dew on the morning of Chandeleur, winter’s last hour!)

During the Chandeleur mass, commemorating Christ’s presentation at the Temple, candles for the upcoming year’s ceremonies were blessed – and some households would bring their chandelles for blessing as well. In Provence, this was the day to dismantle the crêche de Noël and tuck it away until Noël rolls around again. In many parts of the French hexagone, people still try to flip a crêpe with the right hand and flip a coin with the left…if you can do both, some may suspect you of lying.  And there are probably many more dictons and sayings about this mid-winter milestone.  Crêpes will still be tossed until Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, and the vagabond is content with a glimpse of spring:  the first golden crocus in bloom, a cup of sunshine.

For Mardi Gras (16 February), watch for a new take on blini – with an eastern twist.

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