Easter is a special time in France, not only for the Catholic population, but for the country as a whole, involving fun and festivities that everyone can join in on. The French celebrate this special holiday the same way they celebrate everything – with lots of food!
Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so it's a joyful time of year – especially as it typically coincides with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. While the traditions surrounding Easter are rooted in religious practices, in today's France it is a cultural festivity that anyone can celebrate, and alongside the old traditions it has absorbed some practices from elsewhere in the West, meaning there’s plenty to do – and plenty to eat. Some of the food eaten at this time is uniquely French, while others are found throughout the world but given a special French touch.
We've written about the gorgeous Christmas markets to be found in Colmar, but did you know they also host incredible Easter markets too? Here you'll find lots of fresh, local food and handmade crafts, and get the opportunity to meet animals such as rabbits, goats and birds.
Of course, wherever you go in France during Easter, you'll notice the chocolatiers going all-in, with Easter-themed chocolate decorations on display such as rabbits, bells, fish (known as Fritures de Pâques) and, of course, Easter Eggs.
As in other traditionally Christian countries, you'll find Easter eggs in abundance in France in the run up to Easter. These are chocolate eggs of different shapes that come in all sorts of colours and patterns. Easter egg hunts are a great source of fun for families, whether in your own back garden or as part of a public event. The biggest one takes place at the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, just outside Paris, where participants are invited to find 110,000 eggs! If you're good at finding things, you'll end up with enough chocolate to last you till next Easter.
Real eggs (the non-chocolatey kind) are also central to Easter, especially in the form of omelettes. The pâquette is a particularly large omelette made on Easter Monday, and in the town of Bessières in southern France, they take this to a new level entirely. According to legend, Napoleon visited the town and enjoyed a pâquette so much that he ordered one to be made from all the eggs in the town. Every year since, the townsfolk have made omelettes from thousands of local eggs every Easter Monday, making this one of France's most storied Easter traditions.
As for meat, lamb and fish are both eaten during Easter, as both animals have symbolic value in Christianity. Jesus is known as the 'agneau de Dieu' ('Lamb of God'), and families will often eat roast lamb on Easter Sunday. But you can find lambs in vegetarian-friendly forms too, whether it's chocolate treats in the shape of a lamb, or the 'lamelle', which is a kind of brioche bun coated with icing sugar. (The word 'lamelle' isn't related to English 'lamb', but comes from the Latin 'lamina', meaning a small plate - this cute little dessert fits on a saucer).
One of the more striking French Easter foods is the 'Tourteau fromagé', a cake made from goats cheese that comes from Poitou, which is burnt on the outside but nice and fluffy on the inside.
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