‘Tis the season. The dazzling vitrines of France’s chocolatiers are a sign that Easter is right around the corner. Almost too pretty to eat, the hollow carved creations – chocolate fish, chickens, eggs – are filled with even more delightful friture. Here we revisit some of the traditions that define the holiday in France.
Easter is a holiday that is celebrated just as enthusiastically in France as it is in America or the UK, although traditions do differ. One of the best French Easter traditions is that of the cloche volantes, or flying bells. On Holy Friday, all the church bells in France are silenced. As legend has it, the bells fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. On Easter morning, it is said that the bells return from Rome just in time to ring out and joyously declare that Jesus has risen again. And on their way back, as they fly above the country, they drop chocolate treats -usually eggs – for children to hunt, basket in hand, around the garden in the morning.
Much like the Easter Bunny, the main symbol of the Easter season in France is the fish. Chocolate fish start swimming into stores as early as a month prior to Easter, joined by chocolate hens, winged bells, and a beautiful variety of friandises. The first chocolate eggs were made in France and Germany in the 19th century, and the venerable tradition happily continues today.
As ever in France, traditional fêtes are celebrated around a large and joyful dinner. Easter makes no exception with families gathering for a meal that usually includes lamb, a symbol of spring and new life. Of course, chocolate takes centre stage for dessert.
Head to our sister site Taste of France for delicious French recipes to try this Easter!
The Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish, is another fun tradition, though unrelated to Easter. For an April Fool’s Day joke, children play at sticking as many paper fish onto the backs of ignorant adults as possible, and then run away screaming “Poisson d’Avril!”.
From France Today archives
Lead photo credit : Chocolate, eggs and flying bells are just some of France's Easter traditions © American Heritage Chocolate on Unsplash
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