The windows of the chocolate shops and patisseries are full of wonderful confections at all times of the year but especially so at Easter when you’ll find chocolate bunnies, eggs, chickens and bells in white chocolate, dark chocolate, decorated chocolate. If you are a chocoholic who’s on the wagon then France is not the place to see how strong your will is at this time of year.
Eggs are not delivered in France by Easter Bunnies as they are in other countries but by bells with wings – les cloches Volant! Except in the region of Alsace where they do have bunnies – they also have an extra day’s holiday at Easter thanks to their German heritage (see Public holidays for more information). The rest of France waits for the flying winged bells to do their rounds.
The history of this legend goes back many centuries when the Catholic Authorities required that churches not ring their bells between Easter and the preceding Thursday. A story grew that the bells had flown to Rome – they would take the misery and grief of those mourning the crucifixion of Jesus. Children were told the bells would see the Pope who would bless them. The bells then collect chocolate eggs and other goodies for Easter, return to their churches and bell towers and drop the goodies from the sky on Easter Sunday morning on the way. Even today, Church bells don’t ring in France from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning, when they peel out in joyful tones to announce the resurrection of Christ.
Chocolate eggs are traditional in France as elsewhere. Eggs also play a part in a traditional custom of rolling raw eggs down a slope – apparently to symbolise the rolling of the stone covering the tomb of Jesus. These days kids are more likely to gently roll their Chocolate eggs and the winner is the one whose egg is the fastest. It’s also traditional for the eggs to be hidden in the house or garden (if it’s a fine day) and the kids have to hunt them out, often beautiful decorated and placed in small nests.
Eggs are also used to make the omelettes which are often eaten at Easter as they are a symbol of new life – in some places in France giant omelettes are made using thousands and thousands of eggs as the townspeople come together to celebrate.
Happy Easter tout le monde.