UNOFFICIAL HOLIDAYS AND TRADITIONS
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year begins on the new moon between January 21 and February 21. In Paris, the Chinese community has turned it into a major event that Parisians enjoy celebrating. The focus is in the 13th arrondissement, where Paris’s “Chinatown” is located. Houses and shops are decorated, and there are numerous cultural events and a magnificent parade that attracts around 100,000 spectators.
It’s not an official holiday, but the Galette des Rois (Three Kings’ Cake) is a must! It’s made of puff pastry and traditionally filled with marzipan, but there are now other fillings available, such as chocolate. It’s eaten with family or friends by cutting it into as many pieces as there are people present. The youngest person decides the order in which the pieces are distributed. Whoever finds a small figurine in their piece is crowned king or queen and gets to determine how the rest of the day goes.
This unofficial Christian holiday on February 2 is called Candlemas. The French name comes from “chandelle” (candle). According to Catholic tradition, candles needed for the year were blessed on this day in churches and at home. Traditionally, on this day, people eat crêpes because their round shape resembles the sun, which is also a symbol of light and is now driving away the winter. Whoever manages to flip their crêpe by tossing it in the air with a frying pan (and catching it again) while holding a coin in their other hand is said to become rich. However, there’s a catch: you can’t eat that crêpe; you have to keep it on a shelf for the whole year (yuck… ;-)). We recommend eating the crêpes instead, AND we have a recipe for you:
a pinch of salt
50g softened butter
1 packet of vanilla sugar (omit if you prefer savory crêpes)
a dash of rum (if no children are eating)
filling and toppings of your choice (e.g., crème fraîche, pears, blueberries, and strawberry jam).
Instructions: Beat eggs, butter, salt (and optionally, vanilla sugar) until frothy. Add milk and mix. Stir in flour. For a French touch, add rum. Heat oil in a pan and thinly fry the crêpes. We love them with Raspberry jam, but feel free to unleash your sweet or savory imagination. Bon appétit!
In France, April Fools’ Day is called “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish). Children like to stick a paper fish on the backs of their family and friends. When the person notices it, they shout “Poisson d’Avril.”