Yes, you read that right: a holiday devoted to crêpes.
Americans often spend February 2 huddled in the cold waiting for a groundhog to emerge from the earth, but the French have a much more fun way to spend the day. Every year on February 2, France observes La Chandeleur, a.k.a. Candlemas, a.k.a. a day dedicated to eating crêpes. The Catholic religious holiday is exactly 40 days after Christmas, but it also has origins in an older pre-Christian holiday celebrating the harvest and marking the midway point of winter. As a result, the current La Chandeleur is a mix of both of these traditions, which eventually evolved into a day revolving around the crêpe—the round shape represents the sun and the circle of life, while the act of eating and sharing with others commemorates a historical tradition of popes giving food out to the poor every year on February 2.
La Chandeleur might just be the most superstitious day of the year in France. Simply going to a restaurant and ordering crêpes isn’t going to cut it. Depending what part of the country you’re in, some people put a coin on top of the crepe during the cooking process for luck, while others believe that you have to hold a coin in your right hand while flipping over the crêpes with your left—if you can do it without dropping any on the floor, you’ll be prosperous in the year to come. You’re also supposed to eat crêpes at dinnertime instead of breakfast, and some people save the first crêpe and stash it in a drawer or hiding place (again, for luck in the year to come) instead of eating it. And just like how Groundhog Day has weather-related implications depending on whether or not said groundhog sees his shadow, the French believe that rain on La Chandeleur will mean 40 more days of showers while a clear and sunny day means winter is almost over. Along with the sweet or savory crêpes, it’s traditional to drink boozy cider out of a round bowl (more of that symbolism) instead of a glass.
But don’t worry if you couldn’t make it to Paris in time to celebrate this tasty holiday. There are others. The French have really figured out the art of celebrations based on food and drink—for example, every third Thursday in November is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, a public holiday dedicated entirely to drinking red wine. Oui, s’il vous plaît!
Meanwhile, here is a Recipe
250 g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
600 ml milk
and 2 tbs of sugar if you want
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs and a little milk. Gradually mix in the flour from the sides, pouring more of the remaining liquid as you go and keeping a smooth batter.
Continue until all the liquid is added and the flour is combined.
You can use an electric whisk if you prefer, but make sure you incorporate the liquid in gradually otherwise you will have lumps through the batter. Cover and let it rest for at least 30-60 minutes or overnight in the fridge.
When ready to make the crepes, beat the batter lightly.
Heat the crepe pan to very hot with a small amount of vegetable oil. (best with salted butter)
Wipe with kitchen towel/ pour the excess oil away so you don’t end up with a greasy first crêpe. Pour a small amount of the batter in and work quickly, tilting the pan to cover the base with a thin layer of the batter.
When it bubbles a little and comes away from the sides of the pan it is ready to turn … either toss if you are feeling confident or turn with a spatula. Cook the other side then serve with the topping of your choice. Some people cook the whole stack then re-heat quickly before serving, others cook a big stack and keep them warm in the oven with a tea towel whilst cooking them all … or serve people one at a time as you make them and make a social event out of it. One is never enough so allow at least 2-3 per person … more if you are having savoury ones to start with.