Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Groundhog Day, La Chandeleur, Greek Food and more

When I first met my husband, he told me his birthday was February 2nd and he added "Groundhog Day."  I have never heard of Groundhog Day in France.  I found out that it is an old American tradition which dates back to the 1800s and is supposed to have originated from an ancient European belief that hibernating creatures could predict the arrival of springtime.  The tradition was brought over to the United States by German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch.  Festivals are held on February 2nd and the largest one is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the most popular groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.  (Photo of statue below courtesy of Wiki-commons.)
On February 2nd if a groundhog sees his shadow when he comes out of his burrow, it is supposed to mean there will be six more weeks of winter.  If he doesn't see his shadow, it means we will get an early spring.  Phil has only a 39% rate of accuracy.  Here in Georgia we have our own celebrated groundhog named General Beauregard Lee.  The Yellow River Game Ranch, where he resides, claims that his rate of accuracy is 94%.  (Pictures of groundhogs below courtesy of Wiki-Commons.)
In my home in France, we did have a celebration on February 2nd - it is very popular in France still.  It is called "La Chandeleur" or "Crepe Day."  On this day large flat pancakes, known as crepes, are traditionally made and eaten.  At home in France, each of us, in turn, had to flip our crepe while holding a coin in the other hand.  If the crepe fell down flat back in the frying pan it meant that we would enjoy prosperity throughout the coming year.  If the crepe fell on the floor or somewhere else, we would giggle, and start over... it was a lot of fun, and tasty too.
Lately I found out that this holiday is also known within some Christian circles as "Candlemas."  I had not heard of this and researched it.  My research showed me that, just as the tradition of the "Galette des Rois"- see my post about it here - its origins date back to pre Roman times, to a pagan feast - the old pagan rite of Lupercalia, a rite of light.  The pagans used to celebrate the god Pan carrying torches or candles through the city.  "Chandeleur" comes from the word "chandelle" which means candle (latin "candelarum") as does the English word "candle."  In the year 472, Pope Saint Gelasius I (died 21 November 496) decided to "Christianize" this holiday to counteract paganism.  He usurped this pagan tradition and changed its name to Candlemas thus retaining the fire and candle symbols.  I read that chapels were decorated with burning candles which were blessed by clergy.  You can see the gentleman in the painting below as he is going to drop his crepe on the floor as everyone is laughing.
Making Crepes, painted by Eugene Pierre Francois Giraud, French 1806-1881

I knew of the old custom of La Chandeleur but had never heard of the religious tradition of Candlemas in France - it could be that it is observed in other countries.  If a writer usurps another author's story, he can be sued for plagiarism, the same applies to a composer if he copies another's piece of music. I wonder when the Church appropriated a holiday from pagan folklore if it could have been sued for "holiday plagiarism"? (lol.)  It certainly is a bizarre coincidence that so many pagan festivals became Christian holidays.
So last Saturday, February 2nd, we went for a late lunch at a local Greek restaurant - The Clay Oven Greek Mediterranean Restaurant, which we had not tried before.  We started with an appetizer, tiropita - a savory Phyllo dough feta cheese triangle.  We both chose the clay oven baked lamb and a Greek salad.  The lady owner came to our table to greet us and explained that this was a family owned restaurant where everything was made from scratch.  She offered the desert to my husband in honor of his birthday - a baklava cake.
There is a take-out bakery in the restaurant and an adjacent large room for Greek dancing on Thursday nights - if you don't know how to dance the Greek way, they teach you.  We may go and try one of these Thursdays...
Afterwards we drove up to the French bakery, Douceur de France, where my daughter had ordered a birthday cake for her father.  We opened the box outside the bakery to have a look - and you can see it on the picture at the top of this post.  Once back at home in the evening after a light dinner (we were still full from lunch) we had a piece of the cake...so yummy!
First, of course, my husband had to blow out the candles - just a dozen.
This was a "Black Forest" cake.  It is made of semi-sweet chocolate mousse, chocolate Genoise, whipped cream and Griotte cherries covered with a semi-sweet chocolate.  Griotte cherries are dark Morello type cherries that have usually been macerated in cherry brandy.  This cake was certainly delicious.  Here is another picture of it below taken with a different camera.
One of my bloggy friends, Patricia, asked in a comment "...Do you find you take different photos on a particular camera? ...Which do you prefer?" I like my Nikon D40 but I also like to use my other cameras because I am not very technical.  I keep the camera set on "automatic" and find that sometimes my other cameras will give me a better picture, or better lighting.  But sometimes it is quite hard to decide which photo to use in a post.  I went to our front yard with four of my cameras to take sample pictures.  We have a large Oregon Grape shrub in the front yard.  Actually we have numerous Oregon Grape shrubs because the birds have propagated it in various places in our woods.  Our two main bushes are quite large and one, near the house, reaches the window on the second story.  In Latin it is called a "Mahonia aquifolium" as aquifolium means "holly-leaved."  Right now it is covered with clusters of yellow blossoms.

With me I had my Nikon D40, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8, Cannon PowerShot SD980 IS and Olympus VG120.  I also have a Sony camera but I did not use it.  I took the photos at different times of the day, under a sunny and under a grey sky.  Here are the results.

As you can see above some are clearer, some have more color, and so forth.  I usually carry the Lumix in my purse because it is small and has a good long distance lens.  For example, last Friday, February 1st, we had an errand to do in a town north of us and we drove through Adairsville where a tornado had touched down two days before, on January 30th at 11:19 am.  I was able to take some pictures as I had my Lumix with me.  One photo I took through the windshield came our blurred.  The damage in Adairsville was considerable.  According to the National Weather Service, winds reached up to 160 miles per hour or 257.5 km.  The tornado was 22 miles long (35 km) and 900 yards wide (approx. 823 meters.)  Up to 442 structures have been damaged and many of them were totally destroyed.  So far the insured damages from this tornado and a second one which touched down in another area in Georgia is up to $75 million dollars and this figure will rise.  Our sirens blew and the sky turned black that morning - it is always a scary moment as it is hard to know where the tornado will strike.  (Click on collage twice to see better.)
One person in a trailer house was killed and many were injured, some severely.  Trailers do not withstand storms well.  I would think that old time log cabins were stronger.  When the pioneers came to America they had to clear the land and this gave them a ready supply of large logs.  Log cabins were easy to build as they could be built quickly and easily.  They were simply made with one room for the whole family.  Later on they could add more buildings or add to the existing cabin.  I read that the first log cabins in America were built by emigrants from Finland and Sweden.  The doors were usually built facing south to allow the sun to shine into the cabin.  I have seen and photographed several old ones in various US states.  Below is an old log cabin located in Chickamauga Battlefield National Park outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we stopped last August.
Below are some vintage postcards showing various old log cabins. The top left is in Alaska.
This is the end of this eclectic post.  Next, I'll post on our second day in Callaway Gardens.  More to come...

28 comments:

Cloudia said...

that chocolate gateau is dreamy!



Sending YOU Aloha
from Honolulu,
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Jojo said...

Much like Cloudia, that beautiful chocolate cake caught my eye! It looks scrumptious!

So sad about the tornadoes and it isn't even the season.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

When I was a child and went to Catholic school, we celebrated Candlemas Day, wich was followed by St. Blaise day when we would all get our throats blessed. I have lived in Pennsylvania for many years and we celebrate Groundhog Day with Punxsutawney Phil. I believe more in the groundhog now.

Scriptor Senex said...

An interesting post!

Candlemas is still celebrated in some Church of England churches. Nowadays everyone holds a symbolic candle during part of the service but in the past, when candles were the main source of domestic lighting, people took their candles from home to be blessed by the priest.

In England Pancake Day is Shrove Tuesday and when I was young everyone tossed their pancakes and had great fun but nowadays the tradition seems to be dying out. I think we have lost a lot of English traditions during the latter part of the twentieth century.

bayou said...

That cake looks divine! Especially the macaroons on top. And the food looks massive. I like your comparison pictures with the different cameras but the Nikon for me, is the preferred. La chandeleur is also celebrated here and our neighbour brought us pancakes last Saturday. I knew about Candlemas and in Germany, one celebrates Lichtmess. For me, be it pagan or anything else, the date is symbolic that the light starts again. The next date for pancakes is probably mercredi des cendres when they are made with buckwheat flour.

The Broad said...

Pancake Day in England is the Day before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday). Pancakes were made on that day in order to use up eggs before the Lenten fasts began. It became traditional in many schools to hold races where the children's mothers would race, frying pan in hand, while at the same time flipping their pancakes! It was very shrewd of church officials to incorporate pagan holidays into Christian tradition as it kept their flock from reverting back to their pagan ways ... I was surprised that this year there was no mention at all on British television of Ground Hog Day as there is usually coverage somewhere of the happenings in Punxsutawney ...

CrazyCris said...

Quand j'étais au Lycée Français j'avais des amis qui organisaient des fêtes de crêpes pour la Chandleur, et il y avait tjs qq1 qui en emmenait en cours! Mais 8 ans en Belgique m'ont donné l'habitude de la faire moi-même et j'essaie de m'en rappeler chaque 2 février depuis! ;o)

There's a very simple explanation for the Church taking over Pagan holidays: lack of education of the masses! They tried to "cancel" pagan holidays, but the general population would go on celebrating them anyway "as it had always been done". So in a smart "if you can't beat them, join them" movement, the Church just renamed and "christianized" lots of Pagan holidays and slowly the Christian version took over the Pagan version. For most people as long as they had a reason to celebrate something they were happy.
Think about it (the choice of the dates for some holidays were made to coincide with big festivals): Christmas -> Winter Solstice, Easter -> Spring Equinox, St John's -> Summer Solstice, All Saints' Day etc... (lots of the "bigger" ones coincide with Celtic holidays)

And many "Saints" and "Martyrs" just happen to have very similar names to old gods... ;o)

Thérèse said...

Chaque annee une amie m'appelle pour me demander si je pense bien a faire des crepes, maintenant j'y pense doublement puisque nous vivons en France maintenant!
Il y a tellement a lire dans chacun de vos billets: des bougies que nous amenions faire benir a l'eglise au "Groundhog Day" bon signe pour la region de toulouse cette annee! aux anniversaires: bon anniversaire a votre moitie, a l'utilisation de differents appareils photo...
:-)
Vive les traditions!

DJan said...

The day between the change of seasons have been celebrated for centuries. I know it makes a difference to me to mark the moment when I am closer to one or the other. I wonder why that is? Happy birthday to your husband! What a nice celebration you had. Thanks for sharing your eclectic post with me; I enjoyed it very much. :-)

Nadezda said...

Interesting to know of French tradition of the crepe and the frying pan!I've read about Phil that predicts the spring start but I don't believe his prediction is true.

Christine said...

Interesting post again - thank you.
I have never heard the Mahonia called Oregan grape before, we know it as Mahonia and it is very popular over here in England as it is widely used as a fence shrub. This is because it is thought that the thorns deter intruders.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

That cake looks so delicious! Yum,Yum,Yum! A Belated Happy Birthday to your dear sweet husband!
I have never heard of Pancake Day,but I am very familiar with Groundhog Day...and good old Phil...lol!

Fennie said...

Hi Vagabonde - you must know of our tradition of baking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday - six weeks or so before Easter. I guess that ties in with Candlemas. Our pancakes our thicker than your crepes and personally I prefer our British pancakes to French ones. They are thicker but sweeter. We toss the pancakes as well. I used to make them often at one time.

David said...

Vagabonde, I must say that your postings are very interesting and your interests are extremely varied! The Greek food looked terrific and I'm envious for sure... As far as I can determine, there aren't any decent Greek restaurants here in East Tennessee. In that regard only, we do miss Chicago... Nice postcards! I collect postcards that interest me that are stamped and dated 1910 or earlier. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Fripouille said...

Ah, 'chandeleur', or 'candlemas'. They are both very pretty and evocative words, one French, and one English. Like 'arc-en-ciel' and 'serendipity'. (Why do we find some words to be more expressive than others? Now there's a topic for a blog...)

Again, thanks for the simple beauty of your photos and the high quality of the images you upload. I particularly appreciate the warm sumptuousness of 'making crèpes' and the beautiful symmetry of 'Les Crèpes'.

Oh, and would you be in an ongoing liking chocolate situation by any chance? :)

Take care,
Frip

This is Belgium said...

your post sound very familiar to me vagabonde
years ago, me too, I had no idea what groundhog day was
glad to get a complete description of its meaning now
and I forgot to make my crepes this year !!
ai !

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Well, it appears that the ground hog was wrong...at least in New England where we are going to have at least two feet of snow from the storm coming our way.

Ruth said...

A nice post full of goodies. I salivated all the way through after seeing the black forest cake (one of my favorites). My sister (Nancy) and I and later Don and I visited the jazz club in Paris called Le Petit Journal, named after this paper. I don't know if it is on the same spot where it published the paper, perhaps? Across from Luxembourg gardens. The Greek food looks quite divine, I can see that it is homemade. All your photos are lovely, always, and I didn't realize you had several cameras to choose from. So often it's about other factors than the camera, like the light.

Wonderful, as always! Good to see you. I'm sorry I am not traveling to blogs much any more, I've really slowed down to a snail's pace. But I think of you often and hope all is well!

Perpetua said...

Eclectic, but great fun and as always very ibnformative, Vagabonde. In the UK we have our pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, which this year is this coming Tuesday.

Thanks for the extra photos of logs cabins. I'm trying to imagine life in a tiny cabin with mother, father and 7 children as in the photo at the bottom left! I think you're right. they would probably stand up better to a tornado than a trailer house, which must be the most terrifying place to be in such a storm.

Jeanie said...

I love eclectic posts! And this one was not only fun but oh, so delicious! I love the idea of Crepe Day. Wish I'd read this one a few days ago!

Sciarada said...

Ciao Vagabonde, best wishes to your husband even if late!
Pretty tradition of the marmot, a discovery for me;
did you call me a huge appetite and craving for sweets. ^_^
Have a good weekend!

Wendy Dembeck said...

I enjoyed this post--as always. Many years ago there was a chain of restaurants in NYC called La Crepe. My mom took us for "special" times, and the chain remained even after I was married. They've now gone the way of so many nice places. Nevertheless, whenever I have the opportunity, I will order crepes in a restaurant. Additionally, they're so much more delightful than ground hogs.

I, too, use a Lumix--a DMC SZ10--, and I just love it.

Down by the sea said...

I always learns so much visiting you. I had heard of ground hog day but didn't know what it meant. Belated Happy birthday to your husband - the food you had to celebrate it looks delicious.
The damage from the tornado looks so bad.
I was interested in the comparison between all of your cameras we have Lumix too.
Sarah x

Ginnie said...

"Eclectic" is right, Vagabonde, and oh so wonderful. Happy Birthday to your hubby. And Happy Groundhog Day. I never did hear what was predicted...that's how out of it I am so far away. (sigh)

I hate the thought of Adairsville being hit by a tornado! We often passed through there on our way north to wherever. It breaks my heart. We heard about some more tornado devastation in the southwest of you this past week. It seems way too early!

Well, with all those cameras, how can you lose! :) I'm just glad if I can figure out which lens to use. HA! No matter what camera you use, I LOVE all your collages. But then, I guess I would, wouldn't I. :)

Kay said...

That chocolate cake looks so yummy!!! Happy Birthday to your husband!

I haven't had crepes in such a long time. Why is your post making me so hungry? I just had dinner.

How funny that I just did a camera comparison post today. I was comparing the iPad, iPhone, Panasonic Lumix (which is probably a little different from yours), Canon PowerShot SX 30 IS and the Canon PowerShot SD 980 IS that is the same one as yours. I was disappointed in the small PowerShot. I was doing my tests in low light though. I should do another test sometime with good light outside. The Canons just don't seem to do well in low light. My old Olympus used to take the best low light and macros, but it broke. My friend had the same Olympus and his broke too. Sigh...

joyce said...

That chocolate cake looks amazaingly chocolatey....I was hoping for a recipe somewhere in your post!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I loved the crepe part of this post and how it is all connected back in time.And the cake looks so delicious. The camera part had me puzzled. I thought it was a new post. You manage to put a lot into one session! I will have to read them slowly and carefully or I shall miss some.

Tammy said...

mhhh...that chocolate cake looks fantastic

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