As an American living in France, I learned a long time ago that the two cultures have different ideas about many (if not most) things. Still, I was surprised to discover that there was no Easter Bunny in France. But fear not, the French have come up with another method to distribute those Easter eggs to their children.
First, let’s talk about the American Easters of my childhood. The preparation would start the day before Easter when we decorated hard-boiled eggs. We used some kind of dye that required vinegar and the smell filled the whole house. Then we had various markers and stickers to add those special touches. At night we would place all of our beautifully (and artistically) decorated eggs on the table and go to bed.
Bunny and Eggs
While we slept, the Easter Bunny would come and hide all the eggs outside in the lawn, in trees, in the house, everywhere. Then before hopping away, he would leave us a basket full of candy (that was definitely my favourite part) including chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate chickens, chocolate…well you get the idea.
The next morning, we would find our basket of goodies, have a little pre-breakfast chocolate, and then go out into the yard to hunt for the eggs the rabbit had hidden. Over the next week we would crack open the decorated shells and eat the hard-boiled, eggs – but only after all of the chocolate was gone, of course.
Looking back, it does seem a bit odd that a rabbit would hop around to our house once a year to hide the eggs that we had worked so hard to decorate. But what happens in France seems even more bizarre.
The Easter Bunny doesn’t come to France – except in the north east, close to the German border. There, children make little nests which they place in the garden and during the night, the German Easter Bunny hops across the border and fills them with Easter eggs. Otherwise, a French Easter goes something like this:
On the Thursday night before Easter, all the church bells go silent and they won’t be heard from again until Easter Sunday. Why? Well, this is the strange part. They sprout wings, pack up their suitcases and fly off to Rome. They go to Rome to visit the Pope, but I imagine they probably have enough time do a little sight-seeing or fly around to Italian bell towers visiting relatives as well. But what they do in their private time isn’t our concern here.
After the Vatican visit, they must go to the market where they load up their suitcases with chocolate. Chocolate eggs, chocolate rabbits, chocolate chicks, and chocolate bells (in their own honour, of course). The chocolate April Fool’s fish are still around so they throw those in too – they do double duty as Easter fish.
Bells and Eggs
As they make their way back to France, and to their respective steeples, on Easter eve, they drop these chocolaty treats at the houses of children along their flight path. After making deliveries all night long, they have to be up bright and early the next morning to ring in Easter Sunday. When the children hear the bells ringing, they run outside to hunt for the goodies that the Cloches de Pâques, or “Easter Bells” have left them.
The Easter Bell egg-delivery system is an interesting idea, but I think I still prefer the good old American Easter Bunny. Bunnies are adorable; they hop and wiggle their noses while bells are cold and not very cuddly. I have to admit though, that growing wings and flying to Rome is pretty impressive.
The Tradition that Binds
Even though the two cultures have very different ways of dispensing their Easter eggs, does it really matter? They both cling to the most important tradition – eating lots of chocolate!
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What a great story! Bunny or Bells…chocolate is nice!
Yes, chocolate is one thing almost everyone can agree on. One can never be too rich, too thin, or have enough chocolate!
Well, that’s interesting. Even after living here for 37 years, I didn’t know the details of the “cloches de Pâques”. The Easter Bunny is the idea of spring, isn’t it, whereas the bells have a religious connotation.
I think you’re right. The bunny was part of the pre-Christian springtime celebration which eventually merged with the Christian holiday. And then the chocolate just ties it all together. 😉
How delightful! Your presentation is superb. Mode of delivery is secondary, as long as the chocolate arrives.
Thanks Mary Jane. I am with you 100% – It’s not HOW the chocolate gets here that’s important, but it IS important that it gets here! Yum…think I’ll go have a piece (another piece) now. 🙂
I love it. Not having been in France at Easter time, I didn’t know the goodies were delivered by the church bells returning from Rome. In Australia, our tradition is the same as the American tradition – both originating from England, I suppose. Like you, as a child, we painted hard boiled eggs and there was not a lot of chocolate. Today it is rare for children to paint hard boiled eggs , instead the Easter Bunny hides Chocolate eggs in the garden. And we all over-indulge in Chocolate – after all it is Easter! Paula
Hi Paula. I heard from another Australian who said that they are trying to promote the Bilby as the bearer of Easter eggs in Australia because apparently rabbits are considered as pests – at least in some regions. It’s an interesting idea as a Bilby does resemble a rabbit with those long ears.
In France they don’t decorate hard-boiled eggs, but sometimes they ‘blow’ eggs (poke holes in both ends and blow out the liquid) and decorate the shells.
I haven’t been in France for Easter either, Margo, so your post enlightened me too. Flying bells dropping chocolate doesn’t have the same ‘ring’ (excuses-moi!) to it as that adorable Easter Bunny. I do agree though that it doesn’t matter how chocolate arrives, as long as it does! Joyeux Pâques to you!
Well, even if you had been in France for Easter, you probably wouldn’t have seen the flying bells. They are very stealthy, flying only at night and they are rarely spotted. 😉
Joyeux Pâques to you too!
They’re both pretty mad traditions really aren’t they? I found out all about the flying bells when I wrote about Easter in France last year. This year I focussed on the best bit, chocolate! I totally agree with you there. thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance Margo!
Yes, chocolate is definitely the best bit and the Easter creations in the shops are wonderful!
I grew up in France, and the flying bells never made sense to me either !
I grew up with the bunny, which is strange enough, but at least a rabbit is a living creature. Maybe the fact that bells are inanimate objects makes it even more magical when they come to life and fly around dropping eggs! 🙂
I have been in France for Easter and I had no idea! How wonderful! I love the idea of the flying bells and I will be including that in our celebrations next year. We use our bell-shaped biscuit cutters at Christmas so they can easily pop out again for Easter!
Great idea! But when you bring out those bell-shaped biscuit cutters for Easter, you just have to be careful that they don’t fly away! 😉 But then again, if they do, they might just bring you some chocolate!
SO that is why there are cocolate bells for sale in France at Easter. Thank you for enlightening me. #AllAboutFrance
We have the Easter Bells in Belgium as well 🙏
Good to know. Hope they brought you some nice chocolate this year. 🙂