Easter Bells: Les cloches de Pâques

I enjoyed dinner on Easter afternoon with friends in the parish who were hosting a guest from France. When I asked Yves if the Easter Bunny would be a character known to French children he told me the wonderful story of les cloches volantes, the flying bells!

Because many villages and cities across France have at least one church with a bell, it has been customary since about the 12th century to silence the bells of churches every year on the Thursday before Good Friday in acknowledgment of Jesus’ death. Legend has it that the bells of every church around France fly to Rome starting on Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday). Because the bells of every church have supposedly departed for Rome, bells in churches across France stay silenced until the day before Easter. On Sunday, church bells are once again sounded and it is believed these Easter bells (les cloches de Pâques) bring with them Easter eggs, chocolates and other treats, dropping them on their passage back from Rome. (Julie Blakely)
To our American sensitivities, the thought of flying bells delivering Easter sweets may seem outlandish but certainly no more so than the notion of a rabbit delivering baskets of eggs!

Joyeuses Pâques!

Et bon voyage, Yves!

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  1. This isn't just in France. German-speaking nations have the same custom/belief.

  2. I have a student from France this year and will dazzle him with this new knowledge! What a wonderful tradition for children and an actual connection to a church. Beat that Easter bunny!

  3. Ruthie: I have to imagine that you meant to write, "Beats that Easter bunny!" If you actually intend physical harm towards the bunny, I'd suggest you not mention that in the classroom!

  4. Well, this is hard to admit as a teacher, but it was a punctuation mistake. I meant to say, "Beat that, Easter Bunny!" Reminds me of the great book, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. (I know that book titles are underlined, but do not know how to do it on your blog.)
    this is a great deal of thinking ofr this early in the morning!

  5. C'est vraiment trop tôt pour toi, Madame le professeur! ;) Thank you for reminding me of les cloches de Pâques and the traditions of my childhood that I am starting to forget since I've been in the US far longer than I lived in France.

  6. Another tradition in France is the giving of small bouquets of lily of the valley (muguet des bois) on May 1. The history behind it is quite interesting.

    Happy Easter, Happy Spring!



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