Easter in France consists of colourful and joyful celebrations. Some of the traditions are alike to those widely known in other parts of the world, some are different. Let's take a look.
Origin of the term "Paques"
The French word “Pâques” derives from Latin. In Latin, we have “Pascha”. It means “Passover”. And the word "Passover" comes from the word Hebrew word "Pesah" which comes from the Hebrew “Pesah”. Pesah is the name of the major Jewish festival, commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Original Pesah lasted seven or eight days from the 15th day of the month of Nisan. The Passover, celebrated by the catholic church, commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ. The symbol of Jesus is the lamb.
The French are famous for their cuisine. It seems that every French festival has culinary traditions of its own. Easter is no exception. As a starter people in France traditionally eat pate. It is usually stuffed with pork, spinach or artichokes. Another popular appetizer, forming one of the popular Easter dishes, is asparagus. One can prepare it in various ways. The traditional French Easter main dish is lamb. In most houses in France people eat the leg of it. It is cooked with the usage of olive oil mingled with herbs such as cumin and garlic. French Easter is also famous for its pastries. People eat their national treat, brioches, and little stuffed cookies. And there is also something very special. It's a different kind of lamb than this made of flesh. It is called "Lamalas de Pâques”, and it is a cake in the shape of this animal. Covered with sugar icing, it is surely as delicious as it looks.
Chocolate eggs for the rich and everyone
The tradition of making eggs out of chocolate comes from the custom of the high society in France. We have to remember, that chocolate used to be very expensive, when it came to France, and only very rich people were able to buy it. There were special sweetmeats made for those people, in the shape of eggs. Preparations of these consisted of taking real eggs, taking out the contents without crushing the shell, and filling the egg with chocolate.
As in the other countries, the French cultivate the tradition of decorating eggs. Eggs are being hard-boiled and then painted red. Why red?... Red is the colour of blood, and the blood of Christ was spilt for the atonement of sins. The tradition of painting hard-boiled eggs during that time dates back to the XIII century. Painted eggs are being offered in churches, blessed and then eaten by the faithful when they come back to their dwellings.
Easter egg hunt (Chasse aux Oeufs)
Children not only paint eggs in various ways but also play the so-called Easter egg hunt (Chasse aux Oeufs). Before the hunt eggs are dispersed in various parts of the home and garden. The goal is to find them. Children are being given baskets and some time. Who will find more eggs? This is the question! Eggs hunts are organized not only by parents but also by local communes and other entities.
Who brings the sweetmeats?
The death and resurrection of Christ are being honoured by the silence of the church bells. They make no sound from Maundy Thursday (“le Jeudi Saint”) and Easter Sunday. There is a story connected with it, that adults often tell children. According to it, the bells would fly to Rome to be blessed by Pope. Coming back, they were loaded with treats. After their return journey, they ring again very loud, announcing that the sweetmeats are back and in abundance. Children in France believe, that easter bells (Cloches de Pâques) bring them chocolates. But there is a region, where the little ones believe, that something else delivers them sweets. In Alsace it is believed to be the hare. They prepare for the visit of it, creating nests in the garden. Nests are made with leaves and grass. When the lodging is prepared for the hare, it is left overnight. The children anticipate the coming of the guest. He is expected to leave them chocolate eggs.
Easter bells- meaning for the adults
The silence of the bells serves to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, and the renewed tolling of a bell commemorates the resurrection.
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