le journal

Eggs, Bells and Chocolate Shells: Easter in France

Eggs, Bells and Chocolate Shells: Easter in France

Easter as a holiday is an important one in France, with its long Christian heritage. While the holiday revolves around spring, Jesus Christ's resurrection and a spirit of renewal and new life, there are specific traditions that are unique to France.

Unlike the Easter Bunny tradition in the USA, France has the Easter bells ("les cloches de Pâques").

The tradition is based on the Catholic practice of silencing church bells as a sign of mourning between Good Friday (the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) and Easter Sunday (celebrating His resurrection). During this period, no church bells are rung as a mark of respect and mourning for the crucified Savior. French folklore explains the absence of the bells' chimes by telling children that the bells have flown out of their steeples and gone to Rome to be blessed by the Pope.

This journey to Rome is said to be undertaken by the bells on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, the bells return from Rome, bringing with them a bounty of chocolate. According to the tradition, as the bells fly back to their steeples, they scatter the chocolates in gardens and homes. This is why, on Easter morning, French children go on hunts to find the hidden chocolates, similar to Easter egg hunts in other cultures.

The return of the bells and the ringing once again on Easter Sunday symbolize the end of mourning, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, and the bringing of joy and blessings (represented by chocolates and treats) to the people.

The tradition of chocolate creations is a rich one in Provence, and France more broadly, for the Easter holiday. All the major chocolate houses, and the smaller boutiques, create a line of Easter chocolates each year. These creations include eggs, bells and whole variety of fish and seafood (fish being an ancient Christian symbol, used by early Christians to identify their faith covertly). 

"Pâquerettes," known as daisies in English, are small, charming wildflowers that are closely associated with the arrival of spring and Easter in France. The name "pâquerette" itself is derived from "Pâques," the French word for Easter, underlining the flower's connection to this time of year. They are known for their simplicity and unassuming beauty, often found dotting lawns and meadows with their cheerful blooms as the weather warms. The blooming of pâquerettes around Easter symbolizes renewal, rebirth, and the resurrection of Christ, which is the central theme of Easter.

In Provence, the Easter omelette is a significant tradition. Folklore links it to Napoleon Bonaparte feeding his troops on Easter and other stories link it a charitable act of feeding the poor. Chocolate creations often feature eggs in various forms as a nod to this.

A traditional Easter meal in France often includes lamb as the main dish, which is a symbol of spring, Christ and new life. This tradition contrasts with American Easter meals, which might include ham or a brunch buffet.

My personal favorite aspect of the Easter period is that it is a time replete with natural beauty in Provence. Spring is in full force and cherry blossoms, irises and lilacs are often in bloom for Easter.

We hope your Easter weekend is a very special one.

Joyeuses Pâques !

Photography and writing by Emilie Johnson. She lives in Provence and can be found on instagram at @emilie_joly_johnson