Being a catholic country, Easter in France (“Pâques” in French) is an important religious holiday and is full of tradition.
Living in France, I’ve learnt that the French love their history, festivals and traditions. I lost count a long time ago of just how many French traditions there are, but it’s safe to say there’s a lot.
It’s a time for families to get together, enjoy great food and celebrate. After all, this is what the French do best.
And every region in France has its own traditions and way of celebrating.
In Bessières in the Occitanie region of SW France, they celebrate Easter by cooking a giant omelette.
This French tradition came about because of Napoleon Bonaparte, who marched into town with his soldiers. The Innkeeper from the inn where they stayed gathered all the eggs from the village and made a massive omelette. Now it’s a full-blown festival.
One thing I did find odd is that Good Friday in France is not a public holiday. It’s business as usual.
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are public holidays, and most shops are shut.
The French tradition of the Easter Bells - Les Cloches de Pâques
I love this particular tradition. It’s reminiscent of Father Christmas bringing the presents at Christmas, only this time it’s the Easter bells who bring the eggs.
From Maundy Thursday (le Jeudi Saint) to Easter Sunday, church bells are silenced and stop ringing. This is apparently to commemorate the death of Christ.
According to legend, during this time the bells fly off to Rome to see the Pope and be blessed.
They then return laden with chocolate for the children on Easter Sunday. The bells ring out to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Easter in France & the Tradition of Eggs - Les Oeufs de Pâques
We’re not talking about the chocolate variety here, we’ll get onto that in a minute. Eggs as part of Easter in France, are all about life and fertility.
It all started in the 13th century when the eggs people offered were hard-boiled and painted red to represent the blood of Christ.
Over time this developed into decorated eggs such as those offered by Watteau and Lancret to the daughter of Louis XV in the 18th century. They were prominent artists who were known for their depictions of everyday life, particularly of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie.
And of course, there are the famous Fabergé eggs. They took decadence to a whole new level.
Originally commissioned in 1885 by Czar Alexander III the Hen Egg was the first imperial Easter Egg created by Peter Carl Fabergé.
It wasn’t till the 19th century that chocolate eggs became part of the Easter celebrations in France, along with other chocolate delicacies.
Le Chocolat de Pâques - Chocolate at Easter in France
And speaking of chocolate, Easter in France is fun because the chocolatiers here really go to town.
Although chocolate was originally only for royalty or the rich, once it became more common it took on fast
Today, you’ll see the usual chocolate eggs as well as a variety of other chocolate offerings such as bunnies, chickens and bells. But they also have small fishes and seashells known as “Fritures de Pâques”.
It’s almost impossible to walk past an artisan chocolatier in France as the window displays just make your mouth water.
📌 DID YOU KNOW….
13,000 tonnes of chocolate is sold every Easter in France? That’s how much the French love their chocolate.
Some of the best Chocolatiers I’ve been to here in the Nouvelle Aquitaine are:
- Île de Ré Chocolats are Master Chocolatiers with shops in both La Rochelle and Île de Ré.
- Chocolaterie Duceau, established in 1876 in Angouleme, is now run by Jean-Christophe Crosnier who is in the top 100 chocolatiers in France.
- La Pichotte is named after a chocolate of the same name created in 1948 in La Rochfoucald. They also offer a great range of Pineau to go with the chocolate.
- La Chocolaterie Lalère – located on one of the foodie streets in Bordeaux they do the best hot chocolate.
The Easter Egg Hunt a big French Tradition · La Chasse Aux Oeufs
Easter Egg hunts in France are huge. Many of the big chateaux will host an event for the kids to hunt Easter eggs.
Back in the 18th century, the aristocrats would indulge in elaborate Easter egg hunts, with beautifully decorated eggs made from porcelain or precious metals.
These egg hunts were highly competitive, with participants racing to find the most eggs. And it was usually the adults taking part more than the children.
One of the biggest chateau Easter Egg hunts in SW France is at Château de Commarque, near Sarlat in the Périgord region. Their Golden Egg hunt is happening on April 9-10.
The Easter Brioche in France - Moana
I never need an excuse to eat Brioche, a lovely sweet French bread. And at Easter, there is a lovely variety called Moana which is more common in the South of France.
It’s usually shaped in a crown or dome and flavoured with aniseed and sometimes lemon peel or orange flower water.
You’re not supposed to buy it as the tradition was to make it at home and then share it on Easter Sunday.
But with all the amazing boulangeries here in France, I must admit I wouldn’t attempt to make it fully admit to buying mine.
Easter in France and the Big Feast - L’Agneau Pascal
As with most big events in France, there is always food involved, and Easter is no exception.
No surprises, there are several courses as you would expect starting with an apéritif, followed by entrée, main course, salad, cheese and dessert.
The main course, (plat), is usually roast lamb served with spring vegetables.
I’ve never quite got used to the salad that follows the main course in France.
Personally, I’d rather not bother, but it’s traditional so it would be rude not to partake.
In conclusion: How to celebrate Easter in France
Like with all things in France, tradition is the key. Everything has a story and the stories are what makes them special.
From the bells that stop ringing and deliver the chocolate to the beautifully painted eggs, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Remember the French motto of Joie de Vivre, and you’ll love Easter in France.