Monday, March 24, 2008

National Holiday

It's Easter Monday in France which means no work, no school, and no baguette unless you can make it to the boulangerie during their limited holiday hours. I thought I'd use my quiet day in Paris to share what I've learned about the local Easter customs and to compare them with what American believers and non-believers alike do to fête the springtime occasion.

For starters, France's national holiday is the day after Easter, while the US begins its long weekend on Good Friday. There is no religious significance attached to this work-free Monday, but as one Parisian put it, "we've celebrated all day on Sunday, we need Monday to rest." Religious purists might scoff at their indifference to the sanctity of Easter Friday, but I think the French might be onto something here. National holiday: good. National holiday that takes into consideration the mental and physical well-being of its citizens: even better.

Central to the celebration of Easter in the US is the dying of eggs by children (and young at heart twenty-somethings) followed by the hiding of said eggs by the lovable Easter Bunny. I'm happy to report that French children also partake in this enjoyable activity, but it is interesting to note that their eggs are not hidden by the same imaginary creature. In France, it's not a bunny that creates an Easter treasure hunt but Les Cloches. Cloches are bells...yes, bells. When questioning the believability of an object without arms or legs that can hide eggs around the yard, a French friend asked how a tiny furry mammal without hands manages to do the same. Touché.

One undeniable similarity between Easter in the US and Easter in France is the consumption of mass quantities of chocolate. Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate chickens - they're all here, just like at home. Trying to buy chocolates on Saturday at Maison du Chocolat was not an easy proposition. The line ran out the door as Parisians hurried to buy their Easter goodies. The difference here might lie in the quality of the chocolates consumed. Even this die-hard Hershey's fan was delighted by the taste of the large chocolate bunny she ate on Sunday. Maybe a little too delighted, as I nearly ate the entire thing. But it's ok, I have all day today to recover.

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