French Connections

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Easter is just around the corner and in France that means age-old community traditions and joyful celebrations – especially in the countryside, which is also great for getting active outdoors in the longer spring days. French cities combine tradition with the stimulation of an urban buzz and there are even more thrills as Disneyland Paris celebrates its 20th year from Easter Monday onwards. So Easter in France really does offer fun for all ages and tastes.

One of the joys of staying at a holiday home in a village or town in the French countryside is dipping into a way of rural community life that has held fast to its traditions, humanity and sense of identity.  This is particularly evident at Easter, the announcement of Spring and rebirth that is evident all around in field, forest, vineyards and verdant hillsides.

Even the smallest French village has its church, often with a distinctive tower or steeple housing the all-important bells that peal to mark the great occasions and transitions of human life. But on the Thursday before Good Friday, the bells of French churches fall silent. “The peal of the bells has flown off to Rome to see the Pope,” it is said. Only on the morning of Easter Sunday do the bells fly back to peal once again, bringing with them chocolate Easter eggs.

The eggs are said to be strewn by the bells for children to find in gardens and parks. This is why French children hunt outdoors for their chocolate eggs – and why the gorgeous displays in the window of the village chocolatier includes lots of bells with wings as well as eggs. The tradition behind Easter chocolate fish is less clear – but they are beautiful works of confection, sometimes containing smaller items of chocolate shellfish.

Churches hold an Easter Mass on Saturday evening and the Sunday is marked by a long family lunch with plenty of local produce and wine, which seems like a pretty good model to follow if you’re holidaying in France!

Easter Saturday falls on 30th March – and there’s still time to book your Easter getaway for this or the following week at a cottage, farmhouse, chateau or chambres d’hote in many rural areas of France with great walking, cycling and sightseeing. More in our guide to Easter – including a fantastic choice of Easter accommodation still available - and in our calendar of Festivals and Events.

Photo: Tulip picking at the Chateau de Percey in Burgundy