Easter is an important holiday for French families and France enjoys a three-day weekend, as Easter Monday is a public holiday in France like in Australia.
Easter is a festival with its origins in the Christian faith, where it marks the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, while in the Jewish religion, Easter is the moment when God freed the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, as he had promised to Moses.
Today, Easter is a family celebration that has more to do with tradition and community than with religion. Children around the world wake up on Easter morning hoping that chocolate eggs have been left for them. But not every country lies awake at night hoping for a glimpse of the Easter Bunny…
The legend of the Easter Bells
In most regions of France, ‘’The legend of the Easter Bells’ persists. Most churches have a bell which is joyfully rung to celebrate important occasions throughout the year such as weddings, births, and significant festivals. But from Holy Thursday, and throughout the of Holy Week, the bells stop ringing, and only chime again on Easter Sunday. But where did the bells disappear to?
The story goes that on Holy Thursday, the bells depart for Rome to be blessed in the Holy City, and are supposed to come back on Easter Day, sowing a multitude of chocolates on their way.
Therefore, Sunday morning is the opening of the “egg hunt”. Usually one member of every family shouts, “the bells have passed” and all the children run to collect the chocolate eggs.
The egg is a symbol of fertility and rebirth: it is the perfect representation of Spring.
In France, this tradition is linked to Easter celebrations which began in the 13th century. Before that, real eggs were collected, boiled and their shells decorated by children. From the 18th century onwards, in the upper echelons of society, some eggs were emptied and filled with liquid chocolate. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that the technique for solidifying the chocolate was developed.
Traditional Easter Meals
Like many of you, French families come together to share in good food – and lots of it – on Easter, where in most regions of France a leg of lamb is eaten. According to the Christian religion, Easter symbolises the passage of Jesus from death to life, his sacrifice. Thus, Jesus is associated with the sacrificial lamb of the Jewish tradition. The lamb also symbolises new life, as it happens in spring.
In other parts of France, such as Martinique and Guadeloupe, Easter crab is a tradition. The crab “Matoutou” is a rice-based dish that is prepared well in advance and eaten on Easter Monday. The crabs are given special care before being cooked according to recipes handed down by the elders. The consumption of crab for Easter is a tradition inherited from slavery. At that time, the Church imposed Lent on slaves, since meat was forbidden to them. Crabs were therefore reserved for slaves. Generally, locals prepare it at dawn and then go to the beaches to meet up with their families.
Joyeuses Pâques from the Bastille Day French Festival family !
Do you feel like eating sweets or chocolate after reading this article?
Check out our article about the macarons in Melboune.