Manger son Chapeau + Change a habit not a spouse :-)
Chapeau bas and Froissé (do you know this emotion in French?) + Ski Lessons from Mom

La Chandeleur: Candlemas, Santons, Crepes (and a Sobriety update...)

Brushes, paint, and clay figurines at a santon maker's in Marseilles. Read today's story about a few French traditions taking place on February 2nd. And don't miss a very personal update in the post note.

Today's Word: la chandelle (shahn-del)
    : candle

Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for candle in today's proverb: Download Chandelle.wav
  Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle.
  The game is not worth the candle. (It’s not worth it).

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

All good things must come to an end and in Provence santons are no exception. On February 2nd, at Candelmas (what the French call "Chandeleur") the meticulously arranged crèche is finally taken down and the colorful clay figurines are carefully put away. That's when the party begins--for February 2nd is also known as Crêpe Day!

Regretfully, our family didn't have any hand-painted santons to store, but boy did we put away the pancakes! When Jean-Marc couldn't find his mother's crêpes recipe, he rolled up his sleeves and made the batter au pif--mixing together a bunch of flour, several eggs, a drenching of milk, a dash of salt, a swirl of warmed butter, and a few larmes of water.

Meanwhile, I prepared the fillings tray: the salty and sugary additions that would top off the delicate crêpes. The salé selections included le gruyère, le jambon, le tarama, le saumon fumé, and l'houmous. As for the dessert crêpes, we had sugar for sprinkling and other sweet spreadables including fig jam, caramel sauce, chestnut purée, Nutella and Aunt Marie-Françoise's lavender honey. Missing were the whipped cream and my mother-in-law who, if she were here (instead of in Marseilles preparing sarrasin crêpes for her neighbor) would've loved a drop or two of lemon juice and a powdering of cinnamon to go with the sugar on her crêpes.

Jean-Marc had pre-cooked the crêpes for reheating at the dinner table, this, thanks to the handy dandy "crêpes party" machine (a Teflon coated unit with six mini pancake-shaped warmers). Because I didn't see my husband grilling the cakes, I can't be sure if he remembered to flip them with the right hand while holding a coin (une pièce d'or) in the left (an old French tradition for prosperity (and good crops!).

Some say the golden, round crêpes are reminiscent of the sun and, therefore, the coming of printemps. While our pancakes reminded me of those things, the golden disks had me thinking of back home where the Arizona desert is lit by the large chandelle in the sky. I remembered my nieces and nephews, little southwestern marmots who were probably just coming out of a long slumber in time to celebrate Groundhog's day, awake in time to enjoy my sister's homemade waffles (a sort of square-shouldered, dimply-cheeked big brother to the dainty crêpe and, in my experience, all the better for hogging).

I wrote today's story in 2007, in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens. This is where I lived, where I began my blog, and where I made a life-changing decision to quit drinking. This week marks 19 years of sobriety! I will never regret the decision to stop drinking, which has led to so many improvements in my life and innumerable blessings. It led to a career in writing, an occupation that focuses my mind and allows me to turn life's frustrations and challenges into comedy (and on occasion, into meaningful reflections). One more thing: while editing this post, and researching Candlemas, I learned it is also called “The Purification.” In 19 years I have never made that connection, and I just had to run over to Mom’s and share the accidental significance: 

“I'm no saint,” I said to Jules, “and I’m not saying I’ve been purified. But I like how significant this is--my sobriety corresponding to The Purification!

Mom looked at me and shared her own no-nonsense definition. In Jules’s Dictionary, and in all caps:


Leave it to Mom to come up with a rockstar definition. I love it! And I feel it, with each sober anniversary. Freedom

Kristi and Smokey primevere flowers solex bike
photo by Jules. Sobriety is one of three themes in our memoir "The Lost Gardens" (the other two topics are marriage and starting a vineyard). If any of those themes interest you, please check out our book.

Listen to Jean-Marc read the vocab list:

Click here for the audio file

le santon = clay figurine, nativity figure
au pif = "by the nose" (by guesswork)
une larme = tear
salé = salty
le gruyère = swiss cheese
le jambon = ham
tarama = a pink-colored, fish roe-based creamy spread
le saumon fumé = smoked salmon
le sarrasin = buckwheat
une pièce d'or = a gold coin
le printemps = springtime
la chandelle = candle
le brocanteur, la brocanteuse = second-hand goods seller, antique trader

Brocanteur santons suze-la-rousse antique market
A brocanteur selling santons at an outdoor antique market in Suze-la-Rousse

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. Zelle®, an easy way to donate and there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Diane Dainis

Congratulations on 19 years. Be so proud of yourself. You have accomplished what so many can not.🥰


Oh the there anything better than French crêpes?! So simple, so delicious. I feel this has inspired my Dinner Menu this week....

Sobrierty... always a consideration... I admire you for the willpower and commitment. I am sure it is wonderful for a clear head.

I just bought a beautiful non alcohol drink made from Juniper berriss and Hibiscus... it is more for Summer, served with fresh raspberries and mint... I can recommend it. It is from Cedars. Though they are basically the same price as alcoholic beverages which seems a bit crazy. I would consider making my own...
Apparently this is going to be a new trend... alcohol free beverages.

And well,.... I have to say that I still enjoy a Glass of Champagne and wine ... though I am very curious since you are married to Mr grape... when he has a wine, what drink of choice do you have to raise a Toast?!

Beautiful day to you.

Kristin Espinasse

Kristina, Your juniper berries/hibiscus is delicious! I would have a splash of that in my sparkling water - which is what I toast with these days.

Ian Pitt

Congratulations Kristi

But to write “I'm no saint,” I said to Jules, “and I’m not saying I’ve been purified"

... you ARE a saint. Not because of 19 years absinence from alcohol, but because the Bible declares that all those who follow Christ are saints - just read the introductory verses of Paul's letters, again & again he writes "to all the saints" ... it includes you!


I've always wanted a few Santons but never found any while in France. I must not have been there at the right time or found the right store.

Congratulations, on your sobriety, and Happy Candlemas!

Nyla Witmore

I loved hearing you speak French and at such impressive speed. Bravo. Et aussi, bravo pour ta sobriété.
Was the host of the interview surprised (offended) by the bucket of water at the end? It was funny and unexpected. He spoke quickly, as the French do.

QUESTION…why did John-Marc turn his head to one side while his nose was in the glass. I know it was to increase the olfactory bouquet, but why the presentation and preference of one nostril over the other? Deviated septum?

Gail in AZ

Mmmm. I can almost smell those crepes! 😉

Judith Greig

In England pancakes are the same as the French crêpes. We eat them every year on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, and in my childhood it was always with lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar -- still my favorite. We do have the American-style thick pancakes too, but we don't eat them with bacon and maple syrup for breakfast. (I never could wrap my mind around bacon and syrup.) We call them either drop scones or, in some parts of England, Scotch pancakes. They are eaten cold and spread with butter for tea.

I think that the Purification refers to the and of the 40-day period after the birth of a child when Jewish women were in seclusion and at the end of which, the first-born boy was offered to God in the Temple. So to Christians it would be the day Jesus was taken to the Temple.

Suzanne Codi

Je suis si fiere de toi, Kristi!! Congratulations, and thank you for the story of the Santons, I never knew their significance

K. J. Laramie

There are no coincidences… We are all blessed by you!

Especially loved “dimpled big brother” description! You are a clever saint.


Happy Soberversary!!


Congrats Kristi. You may know this: Candlemas is the Feast of the Presentation: Mary and Child completed the prescribed time & ritual purification under Mosaic law so can now enter the temple to present the First Born Son to the Lord. Beautiful imagery, and your epiphany shows the ongoing inspiration of these ancient Scriptures.


Congratulations, Kristi! 19 years! Heck, each day you are to be congratulated! Quite an achievement - and, a life being all for the better, for you and for all your loved ones!

Beth Fiacco

Congratulations on your sobriety, Kristi! I'm amazed that you were able to do that, given that your life was surrounded with wine! Bien fait !
Is your memoir book complete now? I was waiting to buy it until it was finished.
Blessings to you and your family ♥

Karen Cafarella

Congratulations Krisit, you are amazing.


Congratulations - you are an inspiration. Have a beautiful day.

Wendy Rieder

Thanks for sharing your story of being a very strong woman, Kristi. You set an inspiring example for all!!!

Kristine Bates

Congratulations on 19 years! There is something to be said for freedom! :)


19 ans -- chapeau!


19 years!! Congratulations! I love your Sobriety- Purification- Freedom triad. It sounds simple but is a profound truth.

Bravo, Kristi. On peut faire des choses difficiles! Tu m'inspire:)

Sherry Frank

19 years. Amazing accomplishment. Wouldn't it be a good idea for all of us to send a little donation in honor of your 19 year victory?

Now I must get the buckwheat crepes out of the freezer. You have inspired me.

Susan L Barnabe

Congratulations, Kristi! This week was a celebration for me too - fourteen years of sobriety. You truly have been an inspiration, in many ways. Thank you.


Our dear Kristi,
We send huge hugs of felicitations!!!
You are not only an inspiration(and a gifted one at that!) but also a sweetheart whom we are blessed to have in our lives.
We didn't have santons to put away,either,(we don't have a lot of Christmas decorations, but those that we do , we keep out all year)--though that didn't stop us from doing an admirable job of partaking in a beaucoup amount of crepes and savoring every bite.
Every day, every minute , every second we give thanks for the Father ,Son and Holy Spirit-- for our faith, health, family, and friends like you!!
Natalia. Xo


Congratulations Kristi on 19 years of sobriety! And thank you for 19 years of encouraging us to speak French.

Ellen Ahrendsen

I love this blog, and it inspires me to stay sober! I have been in recovery for 5 years this month. Congratulations on 19! What an amazing journey. And PURIFICATION is absolutely the right term to go along with this journey. Keep it up!

I also have a website and blog related to my sobriety and infertility struggles as well as my current life with twin toddlers! It is so cathartic to write through our feelings and events in our life.

Stacy Lund

How fitting --- FREEDOM! Sending love to you!

Leslie in Oregon

Congratulations on all the you have accomplished and achieved, Kristi, including 19 years of sobriety, and thank you for taking us along on much of that journey.

Bob the Long-Haired Dachshund (who thinks he is a Golden Retriever, like his late big brother Henry) and I love the above photograph of you and Smokey.

Marianne Rankin

Formidable! Felicitations, Kristin, on such a long interval of sobriety, especially in an environment where wine surrounded you.
Congratulations also to Susan Barnabe and Ellen Ahrendsen for your sobriety, as well. You will also reach 19 years!

I am a very occasional drinker (almost a teetotaler). I really prefer nonalcoholic beverages. I like several different kinds of sparkling fruit drinks. One of them is called "Val de France" and is a product of France. The bottle I recently bought is a combination of sparkling Pear and Apple juices. I recommend them.

Leslie Foster

I love Sherry Frank’s suggestion of donating in celebration of your 19 years of ‘purification’ 🥰


How I miss Gill’s ( my wife) welsh pancakes (crapes) that she made every shrove Tuesday with a wonderful sauce made mainly of lemon juice and sugar.

Judy Feldman

Félicitations Kristi!
I can only imagine how difficult this challenge was for you in early years, especially being surrounded by wine everywhere! But I’m sure you’ve emerged a better & stronger person, and your FWAD fans love you for that (& your writing, of course)!
Amicalement, Judy

Valerie Porter

Blessings for 19 more, at least, and congratulations! You are an inspiration for those of us who have battles to fight!


Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand therefore firm, and do not submit to a yoke of slavery!

Rejoice and be glad.

barbara michels

Nice review. I missed it the first time. Did you know that Candlemas was when Saint Blaise blessed candles. Two are tied together with ribbon and on St Blaise day people go to church to have their throats blessed.

Lisa Smith

Congratulations on 19 years dear Kristi! Freedom indeed. xx

Patricia Sands

What a fabulous word! I may adopt it! Merci beaucoup :-)

Patricia Sands

Brava! So proud to know you!


Dear Kristi, as always a wonderful post filled with warmth and humour. Congratulations on 19 years of sobriety! Candlemas celebrates the presentation of the baby Jesus and the final verse in that account is Luke 2:40 "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him." That is what your blessing was 19 years ago and it has been a privilege to share your journey through FWAD as you grow stronger, become wiser and continue in the blessing of the grace of God.


Congratulations on 19 years of sobriety. God bless!


Brava! (ou bravo comme disent les français...) Today happens to the my 3rd anniversary of my sobriety. I didn't plan to quit but after drinking too much 112 proof gaoliang in Taiwan I found myself in the ER with pancreatitis. The ER doc told me in no uncertain terms that I had to quit and I did. Its was surprisingly easy, I just turned the page and started a new chapter.
Like you it has been a great improvement: health, finances, etc.
Bon février!

Gail from Holualoa

How fun to hear about crepe day. When I was a student in Dijon almost half a century ago I was invited to a crepe party. To this day I never understood what the day was commemorating. My friend and I enjoyed ourselves immensely and loved the crepe making and eating but never could quite decipher the explanation from our fellow party goers who spoke at lightening speed.


I too am waiting to buy your latest book when it is released in hard copy form. Any thought as to when that might happen?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for this meaningful scripture, Deborah. I will write it in my notebook and read it at every future sober anniversary. It’s a treasure!

While I am here, I would like to thank each and every one who has left a comment here. It is most touching to see your names and read your encouraging words. Thank you all for taking the time to write. ❤️❤️❤️

Paul B.

I agree with what Ian Pitt said. Because of Christ you ARE a saint, you ARE purified, and you ARE FREE! And you are a great writer--I've never enjoyed a blog more.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Lynne, for following up on this question and for your interest in our book. We have no immediate plans to print the book, but will keep this as a goal.

Karla Ober

A million congratulations and thousands of "Atta Girls" just for you, Kristi! 19 years is a huge milestone. I wish you continued strength and 50 more years of sobriety!

Augusta Elmwood

Bonjour Kristi, Sorry this comment is a little late - I just got around to reading your post. Chapeau bas to your 19 years of sobriety!
Your post about candle mass brought back memories of my childhood, when, every February 2nd, le jour de St.-Blaise. We used to go to church and have our throats blessed with a pair of crossed candles, while the priest said some kind of benediction over us.
As for the crêpes, I never knew about the savory ones until I stopped at a restaurant in Bretagne, where I had crêpes de blé noir and a bowl of cider. A simple yet memorable meal! America you don't know what you're missing!!
Thanks Christy for continuing to write your blog -I look forward to receiving and reading your posts!
Merci mille fois et bises. Augusta

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)