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French Easter traditions

PUBLISHED: 11:09 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:04 03 May 2019

French Easter tradition of the flying bells © tilo / ThinkstockPhotos

French Easter tradition of the flying bells © tilo / ThinkstockPhotos

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Planning to spend Easter in France? Then you should know that Easter eggs are delivered by flying bells and the chocolate displays in shop windows are works of art...

1. The Easter bells – les cloches de Pâques

One of the main French Easter traditions are the Easter bells or les cloches de Pâques. On Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, church bells across France are silenced to mourn the death of Christ and they remain silent until Easter Sunday. According to legend, the bells would fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. They would then begin their journey back to the French churches, but would pick up eggs along the way before scattering them into the gardens. The bells would then ring on Easter Sunday to announce the Resurrection of Christ and therefore 'return'. So in France it is the bells rather than the Easter bunny who delivers the Easter eggs.

2. Easter chocolate

Chocolate is also a popular French Easter tradition. Decorated chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and chocolate bells are common gifts to give children (and adults) at Easter. Chocolatiers take the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild and the windows of chocolate shops and pâtisseries display intricate works of art.

3. Easter egg hunts

Easter egg hunts are also popular in France. Some towns and villages organise Easter egg hunts in the local park and you can find details from the local mairie. Easter egg hunts in the back garden are also popular with young children. Tradition has it that the Easter eggs are dropped into the garden by the bells as they fly past on their return from Rome to their churches, not the Easter bunny. These eggs used to be decorated hard-boiled eggs but now they tend to be small chocolate eggs.

4. Easter meal

As with many national holidays it is a French tradition to have a family meal at Easter. Often this will include lamb as the main course which is a symbol of spring and new life. Usually, dessert is chocolate-based and, as with all good French meals, there is a cheeseboard. Try our recipe for French lamb stew (navarin d'agneau) and choose between these 4 decadent chocolate desserts, plus use our tips to make the perfect French cheeseboard.

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