An Easter break across the Channel is the perfect way to recharge your batteries. But it’s also an opportunity to experience some very different Easter customs. So whether you plump for holiday homes in Brittany or lodges in the Dordogne, here’s our guide to celebrating Easter the French way!
The legend of the bells
The French think of chocolate as the ‘food of happiness’ and each Easter 13,000 tonnes of it are sold across the country. In every chocolatier’s window you’ll see incredible eggs of all shapes and sizes. But you’ll also see bells fashioned from delicious chocolate and praline waiting to be gobbled up at Easter time. Legend has it that all the church bells in France fly to Rome on Maundy Thursday to be blessed by the Pope, before flying home and dropping eggs and other Easter treats in the gardens of lucky French children.
That’s why you’ll never hear church bells ringing in France between Good Friday and Easter Day, when they ring out joyfully across the country. That’s the sign for French children to run outside and grab the goodies!
An Easter feast
Wherever your holiday home is located, you’ll be in for a treat when it comes to the Easter feast. In Brittany, the end of the scallop season is celebrated in style around Easter time in the beautiful port towns of Pampol and Saint-Quay-Portrieux. With oysters still just in season, what better way to celebrate Easter in Brittany than with a fruits de mer feast followed by the famous salt marsh lamb?
In the Vendee, you can enjoy a host of regional dishes like prefou – a type of garlic bread often stuffed with cheese and meat – and the famous mogettes, a type of white bean, cooked with ham. Accompany your meal with the famous troussepinette, the appropriately named ‘wine of thorns’, flavoured with the young shoots of blackthorn or hawthorn.
If you’re staying in the Dordogne, a visit to the town of Bessieres on Easter Monday is well worth it to participate in the world’s biggest omelette! This strange tradition celebrates the night that Napoleon Bonaparte and his army passed through the town. Having enjoyed an omelette for his dinner, Napoleon ordered that all the eggs in town be used to create a giant omelette for his troops to enjoy. Nowadays, around 15,000 eggs are cracked into a huge dish and stirred by over a dozen chefs before being devoured by the hungry crowd!
Go on an Easter egg hunt
Just like in the UK, this is a hugely popular activity over Easter. The greatest of them all takes place at the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte where the kids can search for some of the tens of thousands of eggs hidden in the formal gardens while adults can enjoy a tour of this stunning chateau – the inspiration for Versailles. Situated just outside Paris, it’s worth popping over for the weekend to experience the Easter egg fever!
If you prefer an Easter egg hunt with a difference, then try the annual hunt at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Another incredible hunt takes place in the majestic world heritage site of Provins, while dinosaur lovers will adore the hunt through the Jurassic World inspired grounds of the Chateau des Aventuriers in the Vendee.