The Easter holiday can be the best time to visit Paris – although not this year, unfortunately. Depending on when the holiday falls, you’ll likely be able to catch some lovely Parisian Spring weather – especially if Easter Sunday is in mid to late April. Since we won’t be able to celebrate Easter in Paris with you this year, we thought we’d share some French Easter traditions that you can take part in – no matter where you are in the world!
Les Cloches de Pâques
One of the most important things to know about Easter in France is that it is not an Easter bunny who delivers children their Easter baskets filled with eggs and candy. In France, Easter presents are delivered by Les Cloches de Pâques literally flying church bells. Beginning on the Thursday before Easter, church bells go silent until Easter Sunday to mourn the death of Jesus. Legend has it that so parents could explain the absence of the church bells to their children, they created the story that during this time the bells fly all the way to Rome so that the Pope can give them his blessing. On their way back to France on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, the bells drop eggs and presents into gardens.
The French Easter Meal
Like most holidays in France, the Easter holiday is centered around a long meal with multiple courses. Typically, the main course for Easter is lamb which is representative of re-birth and the Springtime. Many families will serve an Easter brioche called la gâche de Pâques, a ring shaped pastry which features a colored Easter egg in its center.
The tradition of Easter eggs as presents in France dates all the way back to the 4th century, when Catholics were not allowed to eat meat or eggs during Lent. All of the eggs that had been laid during the 40 day period of Lent were then used to make an omelet which could be eaten on Easter Sunday.
If you are visiting Paris with your children, there are many activities all around the city open to the public including several large Easter egg hunts. These Easter egg hunts or chasses aux oeufs are held in parks around Paris like the Garden of the Champs-Élysées or under the Eiffel Tower. A bit outside of Paris, many castles hold their own Easter egg hunts in their parks. The Easter egg hunt at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is the largest and most famous in France. During French Easter egg hunts, someone will yell: Les cloches sont passés ! ( the bells have come by!) and then children can start their search. Traditionally, real hard boiled eggs would have been used for the hunts. The eggs were decorated by children using natural food dyes from vegetables and plants.
Fun fact – At the court of Versailles during the Reign of Louis XIV, Easter eggs were decorated using gold leaf. Nowadays, the eggs in Easter egg hunts in France are not the plastic eggs containing candies inside as is typical in the United States, but rather small chocolate eggs.
French Easter Chocolate
Easter is definitely one of the best times of year to see what the chocolate shops in Paris have to delight your eyes and your taste buds . You’ll find many chocolate bells, bunnies, chickens and eggs that are beautifully decorated.
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