As Easter - or Pâques as it’s known in France – approaches, shop windows throughout the country are filling with colourful, festive collections of chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells and fish.
We’re familiar with Easter bunnies and chicks – but why fish? Well, traditionally April 1st is marked by children taking delight in sticking a paper fish – the famous ‘Poisson d’Avril’ - on the back of unsuspecting adults. It’s a kind of April Fool trick that goes back hundreds of years and may originate in the story of some poor ingénue being sent to market for freshwater fish when it was out of season.
And bells? These are not normal church bells but “Cloches Volantes” or Flying Bells. They acknowledge the Easter French Catholic tradition that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously fly to the Vatican in Rome, carrying the grief of those who mourn the crucifixion of Jesus. Happily, the bells fly back on Easter morning, this time bringing chocolate and eggs that are hidden in the house and garden for children to find when they wake up in the morning.
Later on Easter Sunday extended families attend church together and then share a meal that traditionally features roast lamb and perhaps a quiche or omelette dish.