On the 2nd February the French celebrate La Chandeleur or Fêtes des chandelles, a day where they commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
Candlemas is traditionally celebrated in France by the eating of pancakes and the telling of fortunes; in your right hand hold the crêpe pan, in the other a coin or piece of gold. Flip the pancake into the air and if you manage to catch the pancake back in the pan your family will have a prosperous year.
There are many proverbs surrounding La Chandeleur which relate to the end of winter and the coming of spring so it is no coincidence that on 2nd February Americans also celebrate Groundhog Day where Punxsutawney Phil gives his prediction for the arrival of spring.
French proverbs surrounding Chandeleur
À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur. On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens.
Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derrière; Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte! If February is clear, winter is behind us. If the Chandeleur is overcast, winter will last another forty days.
The legend goes that when the groundhog comes out of his burrow from hibernation, he will look for his own shadow. If it is sunny and he sees it, he will take fright and go back into his hole. Winter will then carry on for another six weeks. If it is cloudy and he doesn’t see his shadow, then spring will arrive early.
Today’s predictions for the end of winter and the coming of spring
Today at 1.25pm French time Punxsutawney Phil gave his verdict for 2013; having failed to see his shadow, spring will come early. At 1.25pm here in la Corrèze, France we have snow and it is overcast, so I guess winter will last another 40 days!
Given that the proverbs contradict each other, overcast for Phil and spring is on its way, overcast on La Chandeleur and winter will be with us for another 40 days, I’m actually none the wiser as to whether or not I can start in the garden!
Never mind, I’ll just enjoy my pancakes instead!