La Chandeleur aka Crêpe Day
Photo Aix-en-Provence Tourism
February 2 marks La Chandeleur, a holiday celebrated in Provence with the making - and eating - of crêpes.
La Chandeleur is the culmination of the Calendale, the festive holiday season which begins with the feast day of St. Barbara (la Sainte Barbe), celebrated on December 4. On this day, Provençal celebrants plant wheat and lentil seeds in small containers. If the seeds germinate and grow quickly, one can be assured of a good harvest and a prosperous New Year. The new shoots are often tied with tinsel and ribbon and used as Christmas table decorations. Aix-en-Provence celebrates La Bravade Calendale each year with a street festival and the offering of “La Pompe de Noel” (a sweet brioche, one of the 13 desserts of Christmas) to city authorities.
(Want to experience the festive Calendale season for yourself? Join me for a Taste of Provence for the Holidays, Dec. 6- Dec. 13, 2020)
These holidays have their roots in pagan and Roman customs. At the beginning, farmers ate a meal based on wheat on La Chandeleur to encourage Spring to come quickly and to continue to pray that the wheat harvest would be abundant. During lean times, they tried to use as little wheat as possible, combining it with a bit of liquid and, voilà, the crêpe was born!
Nowadays, you don’t need the excuse of La Chandeleur to prepare crêpes.
In fact, socca crêpes made with chickpea flour are a street food staple in Marseille all year round. With a bit of practice and the right pan, crêpes are easy to prepare. Crêpes can be served as a sweet dessert or snack (crêpes sucrées) with a simple jam filling and usually made with wheat flour. They can also be savory (crêpes salées), traditionally made with buckwheat flour and filled with mushrooms, spinach or ham and cheese.
The ingredients are simple but it’s all in the technique. Here’s a video to get you started: