Pâques" is one of the most awaited holidays in the year in France.
Many of the French Easter traditions directly relate back to the fact that much of the country considers itself Roman-Catholic. Easter is a major holiday celebrated by all, religious or not.
'Pâques' refers to Easter, but also to the spring vacation
We also call them “vacances de printemps” and they differ according to 3 geographic Zones through France (the French system that staggers school holiday dates per region so that not all French people are on the roads at the same time). The “vacances de printemps” are 2 weeks long and fall between April 13 and May 13.
No Good Friday but Easter Monday
Good Friday is not a free day in most regions of France. The exception is the lucky residents of Alsace, the only French people who get to stay home this day. The reason for this is Alsace's rather complicated history of switching hands between Germany and France. Under German rule, the Alsatians had Good Friday off, and when they once again became French, they refused to give up this benefit.
But, Easter Monday (the 17th) is a public holiday.
Les cloches de Pâques "Flying Easter bells"
The Catholic tradition dictates that Church bells don’t ring between Good Friday “Vendredi Saint” and Easter Sunday, to commemorate the death of Christ and his resurrection.
The oral tradition then said that all church bells were in France sprout wings and fly down to the Vatican for a visit and to be blessed by the Pope. After their getaway to Italy, the bells return to France laden with goodies for well-behaved children — namely chocolate eggs.
They randomly drop these treats for the great joy of children.
La chasse aux oeufs 'Easter egg hunt"
Traditionally, the bells fly back on Saturday night. So, Sunday morning is the opening of “la chasse aux oeufs” in France.
Someone usually shouts “les cloches sont passées” and all the children run outside to collect chocolate or sugar eggs, hens, roosters, chicks, bunnies and lambs… and flying bells of course, all symbolic of Easter, spring and renewal.
We hide the treats more or less well depending on the age of the children. Some easter egg hunts are organized by cities and other communities.
The most famous and largest Easter egg hunt takes place in the gardens of the Chateaux Vaux le Vicomte just outside of Paris. Tens of thousands of eggs to be found by both kids and their parents!
Traditional Easter meal : l'agneau pascal
Food, of course, plays a large role in the many French holidays, and Easter is no exception!
The table is usually very lively, with pots of daisies and other spring flowers, green and yellow colors prevail. Many people use Easter eggs to also decorate the table.
People usually prepare lamb as a main course, traditionally a roasted leg. It goes wonderfully with green beans, or a mixture of all fresh vegetables from the garden. If the spring is late to come this year, a traditional dry bean to serve with lamb is flageolet beans.
For Christians, Easter symbolizes Jesus’ passage from death to life, his sacrifice. Thus, Jesus is identified with the sacrificial lamb of the Jewish tradition. The lamb also symbolizes new life, as it happens in Spring time.
For dessert, people will usually serve the first strawberries of the season that they will eat with chocolates in various shapes and colours and a nest shaped cake.
France has some world-famous chocolatiers. Around Easter Easter, the chocolate shops are filled with magnificent chocolate creations. You can find beautifully detailed sculptures of eggs, fish, chickens, rabbits, and more.
Very often these chocolates look more like exquisite works of art, and much like peering at a masterpiece.
They're almost too beautiful too eat !