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How to have a traditional French Easter

Fish, flying bells and - of course - lots of chocolate. As Easter approaches, here's how to celebrate in the French style.

How to have a traditional French Easter
Easter egg hunt organised by the French non-profit organization "Secours populaire" at the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)


France is, famously, a secular state, but it also has plenty of days off work for Christian holidays. At Easter most of the country gets just one day off – Easter Monday which falls on April 18th this year.

However if you are in Alsace-Lorraine you get both Good Friday (April 15th) and Easter Monday off – it’s complicated and it’s to do with war with Germany and trade unions.

French schools also get a two-week holiday around the Easter period, at different dates depending on the school holiday zones.

Flying bells

The first thing that happens over the Easter weekend in France is that all the church bells fly to Rome.

No, really.

French Catholic tradition says that on Good Friday, all church bells in France sprout wings and fly down to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope.

So no church bells ring between Friday and Easter Sunday morning, to commemorate the death of Jesus (and because they’re all in Rome, obviously).

After their getaway to Italy, the bells return to France laden with goodies for well-behaved children – namely chocolate eggs. 


Which brings us neatly to eating chocolate.

As with most countries, chocolate is very much the foodstuff of Easter and you will already see shelves full of chocolate eggs in supermarkets and patisseries.

As well as eggs, chocolate bunnies and chicks are also popular, plus chocolate bells and chocolate fish – a reference to the poisson d’avril.

Special cakes

As well as chocolate, the windows of boulangeries and patisseries also display beautifully decorated cakes and pastries.

There isn’t a particular traditional Easter desert in France, but it wouldn’t be a celebration without getting something from the patisserie to end the Easter meal.

Anything with chocolate is popular, particularly cute little chocolate nests, and seasonal fruit like the first strawberries are often seen too.

Easter egg hunt

A lot of towns organise a chasse aux oeufs (egg hunt) and several of France’s most beautiful chateaux also organise a hunt, so you can admire the stunning architecture and gorgeous gardens while the kids get hyped up on sugar and hunt for eggs.

Another rather messy tradition in some parts of the country is egg rolling or egg tossing. Raw eggs are either rolled down a slope or thrown into the air, and the last person to keep their egg intact gets a forfeit of chocolate from the other players.

Easter lunch

Easter is generally seen as a family occasion, and most French people will have lunch with relatives or friends. Since the schools are on holiday, many families travel to visit grandparents. 

Lamb is the traditional Easter food, symbolising Jesus and also new life, but plenty of people just serve what they like.

If you either can’t cook or can’t be bothered, a lot of restaurants do open on the Sunday, although it might be wise to book in advance.

Members of the Giant Omelette Brotherhood of Bessieres pour eggs as they cook a giant omelette. Photo by REMY GABALDA / AFP


The town of Bessières in south west France creates a 15,000-egg omelette on Easter Monday for the whole town to share, in a tradition that apparently dates back to Napoleon.

It’s not been possible for the previous two years, but is back this year if you’re looking for something fun to do with your day off on Monday.

Hooded figures

And if you’re in Corsica over the Easter weekend, you might see a hooded man chained to a cross.

Don’t panic, this is perfectly normal, part of the traditional Catholic festival on the island and people volunteer to be the one on the cross.

Covid rules

Most Covid-related restrictions have now been lifted in France, so this will be more relaxed than Easter 2020 (strict lockdown) or Easter 2021 (gatherings limited to 6 people, bars, restaurants closed etc), but there are still some rules in place.

If you’re travelling to France check out the latest travel restrictions HERE.

Once in France masks are compulsory on public transport, public transport hubs (eg stations, airports etc) and hospitals and health centres. Guidelines remain in place on social distancing and hygiene gestures but they are recommendations rather than rules.

If you develop symptoms, you can get a rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis at almost all pharmacies, but if you are not a resident you will have to pay for it, at a maximum price of €22. Home tests are available from most pharmacies at a maximum price of €6.

READ ALSO Easter holidays: What to expect if you’re coming to France

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Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

Children in nine European countries, including 81 in France, were affected

Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

More than 3,000 tonnes of Kinder products have been withdrawn from the market over salmonella fears leaving a dent of tens of millions of euros, a company official has told France’s Le Parisien.

Nicolas Neykov, the head of Ferrero France, said the contamination came “from a filter located in a vat for dairy butter”, at a factory in Arlon in Belgium.

He said the contamination could have been caused by humans or raw materials.

Chocolate products made at the factory in Arlon, southeastern Belgium, were found to contain salmonella, resulting in 150 cases in nine European countries.

Eighty-one of these were in France, mainly affecting children under 10 years old.

The factory’s closure and the health concerns were blows to its owner, Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, coming at the height of the Easter holiday season when its Kinder chocolates are sought-after supermarket buys.

“This crisis is heartbreaking. It’s the biggest removal of products in the last 20 years,” Neykov said.

But the company hoped to be able to start up the factory again, with 50 percent of health and safety inspections to be carried out by an approved “external laboratory” in the future, instead of the previous system of only internal reviews.

“We have asked for a reopening from June 13 to relaunch production as soon as possible,” he added.