Celebrating Easter in France: From Pagan celebrations to Catholic traditions.

From Flying Bells to Bunnies with Eggs

Growing up in Ohio, Easter was usually celebrated on a cold winter day. Sometimes even among the snow flurries. We always had new outfits for church and Mum always made a big meal featuring lamb. We all had our own Easter baskets where we would get candies and some little gifts. There was always chocolate involved. 

How the French celebrate Easter

The celebration of Easter, at simple, is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus after His crucifixion. And, if you haven’t noticed a theme already with religious celebrations in France (and Europe), they all have some sort of Pagan connection. 

In France, eggs (a symbol of new life) were gifted to welcome the warmer weather that was coming, which usually happened around the full moon. This was eventually picked up by the Christians and integrated into their celebrations. 

There is no traditional Easter basket, per se, like compared to the United States with gifts, but children in France receive chocolates. In France, chocolates come in all shapes in sizes, from fish to chickens, bunnies, and of course eggs. Eggs are more traditional icon surrounding the Easter celebrations. When picked up by Christians, they were given as a remembrance of the death of Christ, as hard-boiled eggs painted red. That eventually transformed into painted egg shells filled with chocolate and eventually full-blown chocolate eggs of all shapes and sizes. 

So how do the eggs get to the children? 

In Catholic tradition, church bells fall silent on Maundy Thursday through till Easter Sunday in order to observe the death of Christ. And story goes that the bells of all the churches in France fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope on Thursday and they come back on Sunday. On their way back, they bring eggs and place them in the gardens of families for the children to find that morning. Then the bells return to their homes and ring in the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. 

Easter is a major holiday in France and is celebrated amongst family. The Monday after Easter is known as Easter Monday and most businesses are closed and give their staff the day off. It’s usually a long weekend and most people end up taking Friday off to spend time with family. This is also a time that family gathers around the table for a big meal. Lamb is traditionally served as well as deviled eggs, asparagus, chocolate cake and even brioche. 

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