No need to feel sorry for French kids, though! Rest assured they get their fair share of chocolate at Easter.
Only it’s not the Easter Bunny who brings it, it’s the bells. Church bells, that is. If you are in a French city during the days leading up to Easter, listen out for church bells…because you won’t hear them! According to tradition, church bells leave their homes to fly to Rome on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. French cities and countrysides remain silent for three days, whereas normally church bells ring out the hours and church services on a daily basis. The bells only come back early Sunday, to bring chocolate eggs to children before returning to their homes in soaring stone steeples to ring out the joy of Easter morning.
Candy shops all around France abound with chocolate eggs of all sizes around Easter. But you will also find chocolate bells (and now you know why), lambs, chicks and fish. Lambs, like chicks, are associated with spring and renewal, but are also a symbol for Christ. But why fish, you may wonder? Fish happen to be one of the oldest Christian symbols, and they also happen to play an important role on another day that falls near Easter: April’s Fool’s Day, on April 1.
In many countries around the world, April 1 is a day of pranks and practical joke-playing. In France, it is known as Poisson d’avril, or April Fish. On that day, watch out for who’s lurking behind you, because French pranksters go around taping paper cut-out fish to the backs of their unsuspecting victims. I myself became the butt of a Poisson d’avril joke as a student learning French in a year abroad program. I feigned embarrassment, but secretly rejoiced in my unwitting initiation into this French springtime rite of passage. The origins of this tradition remain obscure, but may have to do with the zodiac sign pisces, which falls around this time of year. In any case, by the time Poisson d’avril rolls around, spring is in the air and the time is right for some lighthearted entertainment.
Bells or bunnies, fishes or fools, we wish you joyeuses pâques and a wonderful start to spring!