The 1st of February is the time for celebration in our home. First of all, it is my daughter's birthday! I can't believe she turns twelve!
Secondly, it is the celebration of Imbolc, a Celtic festival. And finally, we make crêpes or pancakes for the French Chandeleur (Candlemas).
Chandeleur, Groundhog Day, Imbolc or Lupercus?
As one would say, all roads lead to Rome. The ancient Romans celebrated the Lupercalia in mid-February, in honor of Lupercus, the god of fertility and shepherds. Candlemas is celebrated in the churches on February 2. It is also considered the day of crêpes. Tradition attributes this custom to Pope Gelasius I, who had pancakes distributed to pilgrims arriving in Rome, but one can also see it as a vestige of the custom of Vestal Virgins making offerings of cakes at the time of the Lupercalia. To celebrate Candlemas, all the candles in the house should be lit. It is also said that the pancakes, with their round shape and golden color reminiscent of the solar disc, refer to the return of Spring after the dark and cold of Winter. A tradition dating back to the late fifth century and linked to a fertility rite is to flip the crepes in the air with the right hand while holding a gold coin in the left hand, in order to have prosperity throughout the year. One has to ensure that the pancake lands properly back in the pan. It is also said that the first crepe made should be kept in a kitchen cupboard to ensure a plentiful harvest later in the year.
Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid and that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid, who is thought to be a Christianization of the goddess. Brigid is celebrated by poets, blacksmiths, she is the guardian of sacred wells, cattle, and bonfires where held to honor her during the night of January 31st/February 1st. All foods made with milk are customary during the Imbolc celebration.
Finally, Groundhog Day is a popular tradition celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees a shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudy sky, spring will arrive early.
Whether you celebrate Imbolc, Groundhog Day or Chandeleur, it is time to make some pancakes!