Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

February 7, 2001 - La Chandeleur

When Madam Lallier invited Aprille and me for crepes at four o'clock in the afternoon, I had no idea what Chandeleur was. It is more commonly called the day of the day of the crepes but it always celebrated on February 2. For hundreds of years the French have celebrated Chandeleur by preparing crepes in the afternoon before it gets dark. Madame Lallier told me that the tradition is to flip the first crepe with one hand while holding a gold coin in the other. If one succeeds in this task, wealth and good health will follow for the rest of the year. In former times the crepes were prepared over the fireplace and it was an exciting day for the children of the household. After greasing a frying pan with lard, it would be heated over the fireplace until hot enough to pour the batter for the first crepe. As everyone prepared for the acrobatic flip with one hand on the gold, the youngest child would be sent outside as a joke to catch the crepe when it came out of the chimney. It is a great day for children because these crepes are made with eggs, butter, milk, sugar and are filled with homemade preserves and jelly. Of course, no one eats anything in France without something to drink and here the tradition is to drink cider with crepes. Madame Lallier serves us cider from Normandy and tells us that a lot of cider is traditionally made here in the Loir and Cher but that it is a little bit sharper tasting than the great ciders of Brittany and Normandy.
Chandeleur was originally a pagan festival celebrated by the Romans to honor the dead. On a certain day of the year and during funerals everyone stood watch with candles and torches to pay homage to Pluto and the other gods of Hell. It became a Christian celebration in the fifth century when it was adopted by Pope Gelase 1st as a substitute for the pagan festival of Lupercales which honored the Roman God Pan. In the sixth century Pope Vigile instituted the festival to replace the festival of Proserpine. Chandeleur eventually became the day of celebration of the presentation of Christ in the Temple and the purification of Mary. During this ceremony many candles were lit and blessed. During the middle ages, processions of people carrying lit candles went through the fields and vineyards. There were also processions from the church to the homes of the marchers. The belief was that if your candle went out before you reached home, you would die during the year.
The more sinister origins of Chandeleur are far behind us and the festival is now celebrated in the afternoon before the sun goes down. But it is dark by the time we leave the sixteenth century home of Madame Lallier. She tells us that her home is too young to be classed a national heritage, but I feel the weight of the middle ages here. Perhaps it is the stained glass windows, the six foot high fireplace and the huge wooden beams that give gives me the sense of the past here. Or maybe it is just the feeling that one gets when people still practice traditions that are hundreds of years old.

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January 31, 2001 - Winter Comfort Food
January 24, 2001 - Festival of Saint Vincent
January 17, 2001 - Guest Columnist Aprille Glover
January 10, 2001 - Muscadet
January 3, 2001 - Ode to Protein
December 27, 2000 - Summer Dreaming: Escargot
December 20, 2000 - Let Them Eat Cake
December, 13 2000 - Back to France
November 29, 2000 -Beignets Aux Fleurs d'Acacia
November 15, - Thanksgiving
November 8, - Pouse D'Epine
November 1, 2000 - Col de Vence: A day on the Moon
October 25, 2000 - Cult of the Black Virgin
October 18, 2000 - Harvesting Grapes by Hand
October 4, 2000 - Provence: All Good Things




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