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French Pressed – April 16 edition

Submitted by Pauline Mothu on April 16, 2014 – 3:35 pm2 Comments

Pauline Mothu

Spring is finally here, which means it is almost Easter! Let’s talk about how French celebrate it compared to Americans.

I have spent Easter in three different countries so far, so I have learned the French celebrate Easter (“Pâques” in French) almost the same way Americans do, with religious commemorations and the famous egg hunt. However, France has its own cultural traditions that differ from American ones.

If you happen to spend Easter in France, do not try to look for the traditional Easter Bunny you have here in the U.S. because you will not find it. Do not bother mentioning it to a French person either; he or she will look at you confused, and tell you there is no such thing as an Easter Bunny.

Indeed, in France children are told it is a bell that brings them eggs—chocolate eggs, of course—not a bunny.  I believe this tradition comes from the fact that France is mainly a Catholic country, so every French city and village has a church whose bell rings at every passage of time and for various events throughout the year. The only time bells are silent is the Thursday before Good Friday in acknowledgement of Jesus’ death. Children are thus told that the bells—known as the Cloches de Pâques—have flown to Rome to see the Pope and will be back on Easter (with chocolate eggs) and ring again in celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, when children hear the bells ring, they know it is time for the traditional egg hunt.

I know here in the U.S. children usually paint and decorate eggs and get little gifts in an Easter basket too! Children in France get chocolate only, and the eggs hidden for the egg hunt are chocolate too—not hard boiled like in the U.S.

In France, chocolate is an integral part of Easter and is the perfect time for master chocolatiers to show their creativity. Some decide to make chocolate bells, eggs, bunnies and pretty much anything they want to make. They pay great attention to detail when it comes to Easter chocolates, and some chocolates look more like works of art than food! Many French enjoy walking in the streets and looking at the shop windows filled with chocolate.

Another difference between French and American Easter celebrations is that French get a three-day weekend to celebrate this holiday. Indeed, the Monday following Easter is a day of celebration where schools, universities and most stores are closed.

Whether or not French celebrate Easter for its religious meaning, the holiday is a good time to spend time with family and enjoy a meal together, which traditionally includes lamb. Happy Easter (or “Joyeuses Pâques” as we say in French)!

A bientot pour de nouvelles aventures! (See you later for other adventures!)