How do they celebrate Easter in France?

decorated eggOn the Thursday evening before Easter Day, the church bells in France fall silent. Adults tell the children that the bells have flown off to Rome to visit to the Pope and to collect the Easter eggs. The bells remain silent (absent) on Friday and Saturday, and then on Easter Sunday they return to the churches, droppings the eggs off along the way, and ring out over the country. They are known as “Les Cloches Volants” or the flying bells.

One game that is played on this day is to throw and catch a raw egg. If you drop and break your egg you are out, and the winner is the last person left with their egg still intact.

As Poisson d’avril is so close to Easter, chocolate fish as well as chocolate eggs are included in the sweet treats at his time.

Related posts: Easter in England , Christmas in France , Easter in Germany  , Easter in Switzerland

 

B is for Bable and Basque

B is forEach of the autonomous regions in Spain have their own language in addition to Spanish, which they call Castellano, or Castilian. The most well-known is Catalan, but that begins with C, so let’s look instead at Bable and Basque.

 

Bable
Bable is the language spoken in Asturias. Surprisingly, it is a Romance language even though the culture and heritage of the region is Celtic. Also known as Asturianu, it has around 100,000 native speakers and there are approximately 450,000 more who understand it or who have it as a second language. It is not an official language of Asturias, but it has protected status.

Bable was used in official documents in Asturias until 14th C and then disappeared gradually between 14th – 17th centuries although it was still spoken unofficially.

Basque
Basque also known as Euskara, is spoken in the Basque country which is the region to the west of the Pyrenees in north east Spain and south west France. It has between 500,000 and 700 000 speakers.
Basque is what is known as a ‘language isolate’ which means it is not related to any other language. This means it is most likely to be pre-Indo-European. The first written evidence of it dates to the 11th C.

Basque is not an official language of Spain, but it has co-official status in the Basque Country. It has no official recognition at all in France.

Related posts: A is for Arabic   C is for Chinese

Poisson d’Avril

On the 1st of April in France they celebrate Poisson d’Avril. The idea of the day is to pin a paper fish on your friend’s back without them noticing.

Nobody knows for certain where this tradition has come from but it’s believed to date back to 1564 when Charles IX decided to move the beginning of the year from 1st of April to the 1st of January. In the days before phones and instant messaging, it took a long time for communications to filter through to everybody, and so the people in the countryside, that is mostly the uneducated folk, were the last to receive the news and so they carried on celebrating new year on the 1st of April. The upper classes mocked them for this, and started giving gifts on the 1st of April as a joke.

Because April 1st was often still during the period of Lent, meat was not allowed and so often fish would have been the main part of meal. For this reason many of the gifts were of fish, and over time the presents became more jokey and some people began to give fake fish on this day.

One of the best things about this time of year in France now, is that you can buy chocolate fish in the shops!

Related post: April Fools’ Day

How do they celebrate Christmas in France?

This is a guest post from Caroline Skudder who works as an English teacher at the Université Stendhal-Grenoble.

Christmas is a special and magical time of the year. Both adults and children look forward to it for different reasons: children for the tons of presents they get and adults for the fine food and chocolates they are going to eat. Both Christmas eve and Christmas day are celebrated. It is often the opportunity for couples and families to spend one of these days at one family’s and the other at the other family’s so everybody is happy. Father Christmas often comes two or three times: in the evening of Christmas eve (at one set of grandparents’) , in the morning of Christmas day (at home) and at lunch time of Christmas day (at the other set of grandparents’).

Christmas tree with star on topThe Christmas tree is often put up at the start of December and all the family set to work to decorate it. It often ends up being a little unbalanced but the children are proud of their work. Recently, there has been the fashion for outside electrical lights to decorate the house and neighbours often compete for the best decorated house.

Some families go to midnight mass and watch a nativity play played by children.

Tables are set up. Often several old tables are put next to each other to host everybody and we struggle to find a chair for everyone. We decorate them with Christmas table cloths and bits and pieces.

Christmas is about eating refined and delicious food you do not get to eat in the year. Several members of the family prepare a dish for the meal. The whole evening from 7 to past midnight is spent eating. There are several starters (there can be up to 3 or 4, for instance smoked salmon, prawns, snails or frog legs, foie gras), two main courses (for instance Turkey and Chestnuts or duck or poultry), the traditional cheeses and the Christmas logs. We often have enough food for the rest of the week!

Joyeux Noël (Happy Christmas)

If you want to learn French and you are based in Birmingham, you can contact me via my website for private French lessons.

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