The festival ‘La Chandeleur’ takes place in France on 2 February.

Here is what you need to know:

La Chandeleur, la fête des chandelles or la fête de la lumière is a religious festival in France  – a day when people get to eat a lot of crêpes!  There are various reasons for this.  One is that it was a good way to eat up extra wheat ahead of the new harvest.  Another is that the crêpes resemble a sun so it was a reason to rejoice as the days started to get longer and sunnier.  As the crêpe is tossed, it is like the sun rising in the sky to make the day lighter.  Religiously, the 2 February marks the day when Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.

Before becoming a religious holiday, La Chandeleur stemmed from several pagan traditions celebrating the fertility of the earth and the beginning of the end of winter.

It is also said that in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I started the Festival des Chandelles on this date.  A candlelit procession took place through the streets of Rome that culminated in placing the blessed candles in the churches. Gelasius handed out galettes to poor pilgrims who arrived in Rome that day.

This festival isn’t, however, similar to Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove Tuesday in France is called ‘Mardi Gras’ and is more associated with eating fatty food. People eat up the ‘fat’ ahead of fasting for Lent.

La Chandeleur involves eating crêpes in the evening and there are some superstitions to go along with this tradition too…

  • Toss the crêpe in the pan with your right hand while holding a piece of gold in your left – for good luck
  • Put the first crêpe in a drawer or on top of a wardrobe to attract prosperity for the coming year

Find out some more superstitions here.

There is also a superstition linked to the weather.  If it rains on La Chandeleur then you will get another 40 days of rain. In French, the phrase is ‘quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours’.  Another phrase is ‘Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derrière; Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte!’

Classroom ideas:

  • Watch a film about La Chandeleur and see how much pupils can understand
  • Students could be given the instructions for making crêpes which they then have to re-order correctly
  • Identify imperative verbs in recipes
  • Make crêpes and write the recipe in French.  Students can decide which flavours they would like and learn the vocabulary for them at the same time
  • Reading comprehension about the festival

Useful websites for further reading:

Check out ALL’s Pinterest page on French festivals here

Watch the child friendly film which explains the festival.  Head to this link to find another film clip.

Read the transcript of the film and more information about the festival in French here

Find out some more superstitions here

Read other facts about the festival

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