by Gordon Nary
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Fra Angelica
Candlemas Day (or Le Chandeleur as the French call it) and St. Valentine's Day were both designed to replace the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a fertility feast that involved a symbolic purification of the land. Goats and dogs were sacrificed and their skins were cut into whips. The priests, called Luperci, would run naked through the streets, beating everyone they saw with their whips.
The word "February" derives from the Latin februa which means "expiatory offerings" and designates the month as a time for purification. Candlemas is also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin because, under Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for thirty-three days "in the blood of her purification." The religious purification ceremonies became known as "churching of women."
Candlemas refers to the practice of the blessing by a priest of the church's beeswax candles with an aspergillum (a liturgical wand) for use during the year, after which some of the candles are distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In the Middle Ages, blest candles were thought to chase the evil demons away thereby protecting a home.
Since Candlemas day was a major Christian feastday, it was celebrated with ritualistic foods. In France and in Quebec.Canada, fa Chandefeur (Fete de fa Lumiere, or Crepe Day) is still celebrated with the traditional crepes which are eaten for good luck. One popular la Chandefeur custom is to hold a golden coin in one hand and flip the crepes with the other to ensure good luck for the future or bad luck if you drop the crepe The only recorded incident of Napoleon cooking took place on fa Chandefeur at Malmaison when he found the superstitious Josephine in the kitchen making crepes. Napoleon laughed at her superstition and took over at the stove, flipping the crepes in the air like flapjacks. To Josephine's horror, the fifth crepe dropped on the floor which was a portend of bad luck. Years later when Napoleon was watching Moscow burn, he said, "There's my fifth crepe that avenges itself."
The crepes are usually spread with jam and butter, rolled up and eaten with the fingers. The only exception to this practice is in Marseilles where the feast is celebrated with cookies called navettes de fa chandefeur (Candlemas boats) in the shape of boats that allegedly brought Mary Magdalene to Saintes-Maries-de-Ia-Mer in France about the year 40 AD. The Four des Navettes, beside the Abbaye de Saint-Victor, has been baking these navette continuously since 1781.Thousands of the cookies are eaten on the Fete de fa Chandefeur (Candlemas procession) every February 2.
So let us join the French and celebrate the day with Candlemas Crêpes. The recommended film is Fargo (1996) because of the scene where Gaear (Peter Stormare) really wants pancakes, If he had tasted these crêpes,he might have wanted to stop at a crêperie instead of a pancake house.
1 cup flour 3 TB melted butter 2/3 cup milk soft butter 1/3 cup sparkling water peach jam 3 eggs confectioners sugar 1/4 tsp salt
1. Place flour, milk, sparkling water, eggs, and salt in a food processor fitted with a meta! blade. Process for 10 seconds. Check that all of the flour has been dissolved and that none of it is sticking to sides. Set aside for 30 minutes. 2. Lightly butter crepe pan. Place over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on the pan. Pour about 3 TB crepe batter on pan, tilting pan so that the batter covers surface. Cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds or until edges begin to brawn. Turn crepe over and cook for another 15 - 20 seconds. Remove from heat and place crepe on cake rack to dry. Repeat procedure. 3. When crepes are cooked, carefully spread surface lightly with soft butter, and then with a thin layer of jam. Roll up crepe and place on serving plate. Repeat procedure. When all crepes are rolled up, sprinkle with confectioners sugar and serve.