by GRACE BURLEIGH '17
With the help of Monsieur Icsman of SUA’s French Department, French classes at The Academy celebrate the traditional Catholic holiday of La Fête de la Chandeleur. Commonly known throughout the rest of Europe as Candlemas, this feast is celebrated on Feb. 2, and commemorates the presentation of the infant Christ in the temple.
In ancient times, this time of year was commonly when the wheat would be harvested, resulting in a surplus of grain. The French, then, would take this grain and bake crêpes in honor of the holiday. Today, it has become a staple of Catholic French culture, and has been happily adopted by Monsieur Icsman and his students.
Every year, the students bring in fresh crêpes, berries, and an inordinate amount of toppings in celebration of La Fête de la Chandeleur. The students are free to put on French music, and the Honors French Seminar class takes it one step further by attending the party in costume. A dance party to the French tunes of Stromaë or Black M often ensues, much to the delight of both the teacher and the students.
“It’s my favorite time of the year!” declares Monsieur Icsman. “I had actually never heard of La Fête de la Chandeleur until it was mentioned in our textbook, Bien Dit. I did some research on it, and I started celebrating it with my classes around 5 years ago.” Monsieur Icsman is not the only French teacher to not have been originally familiar with the holiday. Madame Kuhn points out that only in traditional Catholic families would the date be a special one in modern France.
“It’s sort of like our St. Nick’s Day because it definitely has a Catholic foundation, but modern France prides itself in being très laïc—very secular. Depending on who you ask, La Fête de la Chandeleur is either a completely Catholic holiday or one that was originally pagan.”
Irrespective of stance on the feast’s origin, all can agree that the holiday is celebrated with les crêpes. “My French 3 class brought in a portable griddle to make the crêpes in my classroom! It was awesome!” confirms Monsieur Icsman. “My favorite type is called la crêpe au sucre, which I used to get when I was in France. It’s plain, but the sugar of the batter caramelizes on the inside, so it still has sweetness to it.”
Madame Kuhn is more frank. “If it has chocolate, that’s a good crêpe. But is has to be made with the traditional crêpe batter trowl in order to be a legitimate crêpe rather than a sort of very thin pancake or tortilla.” Regardless of technicalities, the French Department is always delighted to celebrate the holiday. In the words of Madame Kuhn, “every day should be La Fête de la Chandeleur!”