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  • sarastgeorge7

Joyeuses Pâques!

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Easter in France has been an education. I'd like to share a few traditions I had never heard of before. **Warning** I will apologise now if I cause any upset or offence with my Easter update. I don’t wish to shatter any happy childhood memories, but I must tell you... The Easter Bunny does not exist in France. What? So where do easter eggs come from? I hear you cry. Simple– Les Cloches de Pâques - flying church bells. Er… Legend says that on the Thursday before Easter, the church bells fall silent to mourn the death of Jesus. Needing a way to explain this, a story was created that sees the bells fly to Rome so the Pope can bless them. On the way back to France, the bells, probably exhausted after flying back from Rome, drop eggs and presents into gardens in time for the bells to ring on Easter Sunday. But where do the eggs come from? Surely everyone knows easter bunnies lay eggs…right? Unlike the UK, Good Friday in France is not a bank holiday, and Paris seems busier than ever until Easter Sunday's end. France is a secular nation, a core concept of their constitution. The roots of this go back to the French Revolution of 1789. The Church and state were formally separated by a 1905 law which stands today. Despite this, and 30% of the French declaring themselves atheists, Catholicism is the predominant religion in France, so it’s no surprise that Easter is celebrated widely. For those families who are not croyants (religious believers), Easter is still a time to come together and celebrate in traditional ways. Monday is observed as a Bank Holiday when much of the country closed and families spend the day together.

A sweet celebration I must confess I rather like the idea of chocolate falling out of the sky. You can’t get to the end of a road in Paris without running into a patisserie or specialist chocolate shop. It's hard not to give in to temptation. And I haven't given in - not!

Over Easter, every chocolatier is full of the most intricate chocolate treats. They have turned it into an art form with chocolatey, sculptural window displays and an abundance of chocolate-shaped and decorated Easter bunnies, bells, lamb, and fish. Cadbury’s crème eggs are definitely not a thing here.

Did you say chocolate fish? There is a French tradition known as poisson d’avril, which is celebrated on 1st April and is similar to April Fool’s Day. Its origins date back to the 16th Century when New Year's Day was moved from 1 April to 1 January. Many people struggled to get used to this new calendar, and many were unaware that the date for the New Year had changed, so they continued giving each other gifts on April 1st. To make fun of them, the idea of giving joke gifts was born. Today children stick a paper fish onto the back of as many adults as possible and run away yelling, “Poisson d’Avril !” (April Fish!). Many theories explain why a fish has become the 1st April symbol. I’ll leave you to do your own research on that one.

I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with Easter. Well, nothing other than the fact that it’s often celebrated in April, so the chocolate fish get incorporated along with the chicks, bunnies and eggs.


My last fact is about a long-standing tradition in Bessières in southwest France where the Global Brotherhood of the Knights of the Giant Omelette come together to celebrate Fête de l’Omelette Géante . It’s a three-day event over Easter that sees 15,000 eggs painted and hidden. On Easter morning, the eggs are cracked open into a giant poêle à omelette and a massive omelette it made. At the last count, 100,000 people visited, although the omelette is only big enough to feed 2000 people. 2023 marks 50 years since the start of the festival

Easter Monday is sure to be a quiet day in Paris. For my eight week sabbatical, there is still plenty of time. It will be a nice day to continue exploring the myriad of winding roads and beautiful architecture in readiness for shops to open again on Tuesday. I look forward to seeing the new window displays in the chocolatiers. I wonder if they have New Year sales for the out-of-date Easter stock?

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