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Easter in France

Rain Heron of Sweet French Cottages near Entraygues-sur-Truyere (12 Aveyron, Midi-Pyrenees) shares her thoughts about France at Easter:

Easter is known as Pâques in France. Although it is a religious holiday, nowadays, it is treated as mostly a secular holiday and enjoyed mainlyby the French children. The children— as in many other countries— receive a gift basket, resembling a bird’s nest, containing colourfully decorated eggs and chocolates.
The French like to begin their Easter season several weeks before Easter arrives. The shop windows, particularly those of chocolatiers and confiseries as well as patisseries and boulangeries, are adorned with elaborately decorated eggs (les œufs de Pâques). Shops, even the butcher and the fashion boutique, also display bunnies, chickens, bells and fish, often created as edible works of art in either white or dark chocolate.
The symbol of flying bells (cloche volant)is also part ofthe French Easter tradition. Most village churches, many of which date back to the 12th century, have a bell, which is rung throughout the year to mark certain events and the passage of time. However, on the Thursday before Good Friday (vendredi saint), all the church bells are silencedthroughout France in acknowledgement of Jesus’ death.

It is said that the bells fly away to the Vatican in Rome on Holy Thursday (jeudi saint),and the bells carry with them all the misery and grief of those who mourn Jesus’ crucifixion. On Easter morning, the bells return to France from Rome and ring out in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, declaring that Jesus is alive again. In some villages, people kiss and embrace one another when they hear the bells ring out.

French children are told that the church bells miraculously fly to visit the Pope in Rome and that the cloche volant will return to the villages on Easter morning in time for the Easter festivities. Les enfants de France are also told that if they’ve been good all year, that the bells will bring them goodies such as decorated eggs and yummy chocolates.

Barely able to sleep, French children greatly anticipate Easter morning. Parents wake up early and hide les oeufs de Pâques for their children in the gardens, playgrounds or homes. The chocolates (and sometimes, other candies) are usually placed in the baskets, and are typically hollow and shaped as eggs, bunnies, chickens, bells or fish.

Most Easter games played by French children involve eggs. Some of the games include rolling raw eggs down a gentle mountain slope. The surviving egg is declared the victory egg. There is also the egg toss, which requires tossing raw eggs up into the air and catching them on their way down. The first child to drop and break his egg is the loser, and in some versions of the game, must pay a penalty by giving up a piece of his Easter candy to his brothers or sisters.

French Easter fish, known as poisson d’avril are often presented by village chocolatiers or confiseries who create delicious and decorative chocolate fish for Easter, although Poisson d’avril is celebrated on the first day of April and is the French equivalent of April Fool’s Day.

French children stick a paper fish onto the back of as many tolerant adults as possible and then run away shouting “Poisson d’avril!” which means, of course, “April Fish”! This ritual dates back many centuries to 1564, yet its true origin is not known. One popular belief is that it has evolved from a trick where an unknowing French person was sent off to market to purchase freshwater fish when it was not in season. (Proof that almost everything has to do with food in France!).

There is usually an elaborate lunch with family (or friends) on Easter Sunday. In this area of France, an Easter menu might include a starter of baked, poached or scrambled eggs followed by a main dish of roast leg of lamb (gigot d’agneau), served with new potatoes and early spring vegetables. A cheese platter with an assortment of local cheeses would follow the main dish. And, finally, to “cleanse the palate”, as the French like to say, the meal would finish with a wonderful dessert such as chocolate fondant or a fresh strawberry tart with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint.

The following day, Monday (Pâques de lundi), is declared as a national holiday in France so everybody enjoys a three-day weekend, which is time often spent with family. Schools observe a two-week spring holiday, usually around Pâques; however, the school holiday periods differ slightly for the children in accordance with their designated school zone.Since there are so many families taking holidays in France, the French have devised a special system where they stagger certain school holiday periods into three zones. Easter is one of these popular travel holidays so a child in the Aveyron enjoys a different holiday time than a child in the Loire. This, as the French rationalize, is done to share and manage the flow of French tourists!

Easter marks the beginning of the tourist season in many places in France with smaller hotels and restaurants making their annual debuts. While many restaurants in Paris and other large cities typically close for Easter, here in Entraygues-sur-Truyere and in other resort villages, many of the local restaurants open their doors for the first time in the new year and offer a special Easter menu to local families and tourists alike.

Plus, to tempt you to this enticing part of France, there is a special offer for Easter at one of the Sweet French Cottages


**SPECIAL HOLIDAY OFFER**

Book a Cottage for Easter Week (April 3 – April 10)

& receive 15% off our usual Holiday Rates!

Bonne Fête et Joyeuses Pâques!

For more info see www.frenchduck.co.uk

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