Easter – Pâques
Easter – Pâques is one of the most important Christian celebration.
It indeed commemorates the Resurrection of Christ.
A majority of French people declare themselves Roman Catholic, but few practice regularly.
However, they celebrate most religious festivals and attend Easter Mass just for the beauty of the ceremonial.
They will celebrate Easter on 17 April 2022 – 9 April 2023.
When and why celebrate ?
Be aware that in France Good Friday is not a Public Holiday, but Easter Monday is!
Easter is a Lunar celebration based on the Spring equinox and is therefore not celebrated at a fixed date.
Its date of celebration was initially fixed during the first Council of Nicaea in 325AD to the “The Sunday after the first full moon rising during or after the Spring Equinox.”
It therefore always occurs on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
However, the date of the Spring equinox may vary by one day, depending on the longitude of the countries involved (Roman Catholic churches obviously follow that of Rome).
The Spring Equinox was therefore placed on March 21 (although the astronomical equinox shifts from March 21 to 22 depending on leap years) in order to harmonize the celebrations in the northern hemisphere.
Western and Orthodox churches eventually diverged on the date of the celebration.
This dispute has not been resolved to this day.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Christ on the third day after His Passion on Good Friday.
The celebrations begin on the Sunday, the end of the fasting of Lent.
Good Friday and Easter Monday
Good Friday is obviously celebrated on the Friday before Easter in order to commemorate the Passion of Christ (His ordeal and execution).
It’s part of Holy Week – Semaine Sainte, the last week of Lent, before Easter.
Good Friday is a public holiday in most countries, however, not in France except in the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Moselle in Eastern France.
Roman Catholics actually don’t want to rejoice on the day the Christ suffered and died, but chose to celebrate His Resurrection on the Sunday.
They honour Good Friday via additional services that include readings of the New Testament, and Stations of the Cross processions.
Religious tradition advocates fasting or at least eating lean in respect of the Passion of Christ and as a sign of mourning.
This tradition is deeply rooted in the French customs, and if all practicing Roman Catholics fully respect it, many non-practicing do too.
The week following Easter Sunday – known as Octave of Easter – Octave de Pâques since the 11th century – was entirely devoted to the celebration of Easter and was therefore a holiday.
Things changed at the beginning of the French Revolution.
Monday remained bank holiday and was officially made Public Holiday on March 8, 1886.
Easter Bells, Eggs and Bunnies
There won’t be any Easter celebration without the Easter Bells!
Church bells stop ringing on the day Jesus died.
They ring again for Easter, the day of His Resurrection, at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Church in Rome.
Tradition has it that they then start their journey back to their church and spread the news of the Resurrection from bell-tower to bell-tower.
It’s a gigantic sound wave throughout the country!
At the same time, the bells drop eggs and bunnies in people’s gardens in order to celebrate the renewal of life!
The Easter Egg symbolizes the resurrection of Christ and His rising from the grave, in the way of ‘a chick emerging from its egg’.
Originally, Easter eggs were painted hard boiled eggs.
The tradition of using eggs appeared with the advent of Lent, the period of 40 days during which people were not allowed to eat meat or eggs.
However, the hens obviously continued to lay eggs during this period, and people were left with dozens of eggs.
So better to be inventive and find a way of making them attractive and desirable!
The tradition of the Easter Bunny is much older than that of the egg.
It indeed goes back to the Pagan era, long before the Christian celebration took over.
Rabbits were then considered a symbol of fertility, a very appropriate symbol for this time of year which coincides with the arrival of spring and renewal!