Just like Christmas, Easter in France is an unmissable holiday, the promise of chocolate treats and special family moments.
For those of you who are experiencing your first Easter in France or simply planning to do so, here is a quick breakdown of French habits around the event.
1. A public holiday
With its 11 public holidays per year, far behind Argentina’s 19 days but well ahead of Mexico’s 7 days, France dedicates one of these days of rest to Easter: the Monday following Easter Sunday is a public holiday (i.e. we do not work in principle).
The weekend is then extended to three days, an opportunity even for families scattered across the country to get together.
As is often the case in France, it is also an opportunity to eat well, notably with the traditional Easter lamb, accompanied by potatoes, green beans or flageolets (a variety of white beans).
But don’t worry, sweet tooths and other lovers of sweet foods are not left out of the desserts: chocolate is there, in every conceivable form.
Eggs, rabbits, cocottes, sweets, petite friture…. There is something for every taste and appetite!
2. The hunt is on
Traditionally reserved for children, the Easter egg hunt is also an essential part of the season. It consists of searching for and collecting as many eggs as possible, which have been hidden in the garden by people who are sometimes very inventive (or even sadistic with inaccessible hiding places). Small eggs made of chocolate or with all sorts of sweet and colourful fillings are laid out here and there, awaiting the cries of joy from children and, let’s face it, from older children too.
Easter comes at the beginning of spring and is therefore a wonderful opportunity to return to the outside!
According to tradition, it is the church bells that drop the decorated chocolate treasures in the gardens. As the church bells do not ring between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, children are told that it is because they are on their way to Rome in Italy to receive a blessing. They would be relieved of the eggs they had picked up on the way back.
So on Sunday morning, the children equip themselves with little baskets and compete with each other to find the biggest chocolate treasure possible.
Nowadays, many communities (villages, schools, leisure centres, associations) organise their own “giant egg hunt”. On 18 April, the largest egg hunt in France (according to the organisers) will take place in La Baule (close to Nantes campus), in the Parc des Dryades, where no fewer than 40,000 chocolate eggs will be hidden.
3. France and chocolate
Although many countries have a strong tradition and know-how in the chocolate industry, such as our Belgian and Swiss neighbours, France is one of the great chocolate countries, thanks in particular to the many technical innovations introduced into the sector.
The French eat around 7.3 kg of chocolate per capita each year (a large proportion of which is consumed during the Easter holidays), whereas the European average is around 5 kg.
The sector employs a large number of people both in large companies and in craft organisations, which are often highly reputed.
62% of French chocolate production is exported.
If you are a chocolate lover and currently in France, why not take advantage of this period to visit production sites? Many manufacturers regularly open the doors of their workshops to let you discover their know-how and, what’s more, to let you taste their production.
Some even offer visits within the framework of museums, such as the Cité du Chocolat Valrhona in Tain l’Hermitage in the Drôme, very close to the Lyon campus.
And if you feel a little guilty for having succumbed to the incessant solicitations of the shop windows adorned with chocolate for Easter, tell yourself that, among other benefits, chocolate improves concentration and vigilance (be careful, choose at least 60% cocoa) and is a real anti-depression device, thanks in particular to the magnesium which stimulates and regulates the nervous system.
So don’t feel bad: this Easter, indulge in chocolate, look for the eggs wisely hidden around you – but just for a little break, before putting your concentration back into your study project with us!
Happy Easter to all.