Groundhog day in France!

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With February coming up, you can be sure of two things. 1. – it will rain. 2. – we will eat pancakes.

In north America on 2 February, the point of mid-winter, they celebrate Groundhog Day. If you’ve ever seen the film you’ll know it’s the date on which a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his cosy hidey hole to predict the weather. According to legend, there’s only ever been one Phil – since 1886.

We have our own ‘Phil’ in my village, he too is old or furry, and he’s called Jean-Claude. We also celebrate that day, but this being France, food is involved.

Here it’s called the Fête de la Chandeleur (Candlemas in the English language) and along with the whole of France, we feast on crêpes, a thin pancake. La Chandeleur has ancient roots and it’s claimed 5th century Pope Gelasius , who helped establish the tradition of la Chandeleur, used to offer a pancake-style snack to pilgrims who visited his church.

On 2 February, Jean-Claude emerges from his cosy little cottage to predict the weather. He is usually so far from right that most of us just assume it will be the opposite of what he says.

‘Oh la la, rain’ he says in surprise. This apparently means it will rain for the next 40 days.

‘Oh la la, overcast and cold, winter for another 40 days’ he sighs.

However, if it is a sunny day ‘winter will return’ but this time bringing misfortune with it.

But there are ways to mitigate the chances of bad luck…

A few Chandeleur’s ago we were invited to enjoy crepes at Jean-Claude’s house.

‘Merde, the sun was out today, bad luck for sure’ proclaimed Jean-Claude ‘but if we flip a pancake up the armoire and it sticks good and proper we’ll have good luck.’

‘Not in my house’ said his wife Bernadette. But it was too late, Jean-Claude had tossed a pancake onto the door of the armoire where it clung for a few seconds before sliding to the floor.

‘Now look what you’ve done, more bad luck. You can just get a cloth and clean that up’ said Bernadette glaring at her husband.

Strangely, she had said nothing when he had placed the first pancake she made on top of the armoire after flipping it with his right hand while holding a coin in his left hand. Then she has said ‘bon, bon, that will bring good luck to us all.’

‘Mon petit choux’ he crooned to his exasperated wife ‘after bad luck comes good fortune.’

So we will celebrate Groundhog Day France style. Not only will we eat pancakes, but we will definitely toss them while holding a coin in one hand whether it rains or not – we could all do with a bit of the right kind of luck!

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream,  My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online.

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