Candlemas: when should you fry the pancakes?

The date of Candlemas

Like every year, the pancake festival takes place on February 2; a fixed date in the calendar which corresponds to the period of 40 days after Christmas. The term Candlemas comes from “candle festival”, a pagan festival, very widespread in Roman times, celebrated in honor of the God Pan, and consisted of strolling through the streets with torches or candles. Christianized by Pope Gelasius I in the 5th century, this festival symbolizes the presentation of Jesus at the temple, forty days after his birth (Christmas), as well as the Purification of the Virgin. Believers then carry out processions using blessed candles.

Candlemas, a popular festival

The tradition of Candlemas and pancakes was born to remind us that the end of winter is approaching and that we still have food reserves. This practice associating the Festival of Lights with the consumption of a “fatty” dessert is also found in the Jewish tradition which consists of eating donuts during the festival of Hanukkah (Judaism’s Festival of Lights).

Round and golden, pancakes symbolize the sun and the end of winter, but also offerings. An old custom states that it is common to fry the first pancake several times in a row in order to ward off bad luck for the coming year. And an old peasant tradition reports that they used to do it with their right hand while holding a coin in their left hand in order to attract happiness and prosperity…

Candlemas around the world

In Luxembourg, the current tradition inherits the torchlight procession, because currently, children walk the streets in groups during the evening of February 2 holding a lantern or a wand. They sing traditional songs hoping to receive sweets in exchange.

In Mexico, Candlemas is a public holiday, but also an opportunity to eat tamales, papillotes made from corn flour which can be salty or sweet and filled with meat or fruit.

In the United States and Canada, the date of February 2 is associated with another holiday, “Groundhog Day” where tradition dictates that we observe the reaction of a groundhog to the release of its terrier. If she comes out and doesn’t see her shadow (because of the clouds in the sky), it’s a sign that winter will end soon. On the contrary, if she sees his shadow (because of the clear sky), it will mean that winter will last another 6 weeks.

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