Taking Down the Tree and Cooking Up Crêpes

Have you taken down your Christmas tree yet ?

There are still plenty of houses down my way with vestiges of festive décorations hanging outside. –  mostly lights. Why not leave them up ?  It saves all the hassle of taking them down and putting them up again in December, besides, since the end of the festive season, the weather has hardly been conduscive to the taking down of outside « fairy » lights. No, just leave them up.

In this house we will be taking down our tree tomorrow. Far from being lazy, we decided to keep our tree up until the « real » end of Christmas.

As a « religious » friend once explianed to me, in the Christian calendar, the official end of the « Christmas » period is on February 2nd. I know you thought that it all eneded on the 6th January , when the Wise Men arrived bearing gifts. Well no. This is just the date that has been contrived over the years for us all to head back to work.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph actually stayed far longer in the stable, until their flight to safety in Egypt. Yes, it took Herod’s men a long time to find them.

These reflections on the Christmas time span leave me thinking that it is the Orthodox Church that got it right by keeping the Gregorian calendar. It’s far more lgical to have Christmas Day on January 6th – or at least keep that day for the giving and receiving of gifts.

So, our tree is not the last in France. February 2nd is also the day that the Presidential Christmas tree comes down. Keen observers of the courtyard of the Presidential palace in Paris (The Elysée) will note that the Presidential tree remains  in the courtyard right through the month of January.

Now, what is so spécial about January 2nd ? Well apart from  Mary and Josph fleeing into Egypt, it is also Midwinter’s Day. In Roman and Pagan times, this was the excuse for a giant knees up. Halfway through Winter. The days start getting longer as we « head towards the sun. » In the Catholic Church, this is the time for lighting candles. It is also the time for making pancakes.

Today is French pancake day, what the French call Le Chandelleur (don’t worry we still keep Mardi Gras), and this evening, famliles across the land will be cooking up crêpes. Why crêpes ? Well they are round and yellowish and supposed to symbolise the sun. I’ve just made my batter and I’ll be leaving it to settle for an hour before I start frying up.

Crêpes are thinner than pancakes and are made in a spécial thin bottomed crêpe pan. As for the batter, the French add a diverse range of « secret » ingrédients.  A dash of rum or even Grand Marnier is very popular. Personally, I do like they do in northern France and add half a glass of béer. As for toppings – the French have jam, maple syrup or Nutella chocolaté spread. They have never heard of lemon and sugar.

Okay, time to take down the tree before I start cooking.