How is Easter Celebrated in Provence? Find Out Here
Remember Provence sells Provencal-themed housewares, gift items and culinary ingredients to customers worldwide. Marie Helene, the president of Remember Provence, manages everything from product selection to sales and customer relations. The merchandise range continues growing as Marie Helene sources quality goods from market vendors and artisan producers.
Having grown up in Provence, Marie Helene has an innate ability to separate genuine French creations from those that might be mass-produced elsewhere. She also knows about French holiday traditions, including Easter in Provence.
Pâques = Easter
In French, the word for Easter is Pâques, meaning “the passage.” The word comes from “Pesach,” the Jewish Passover celebrating the liberation of the Hebrews who crossed the Red Sea to flee Egypt. This name is taken up in the Christian religion because the Passion and death of Jesus took place during the Jewish Passover.
This holiday is important in both Jewish and Christian religions. The celebration of the resurrection of Christ begins on Holy Thursday and ends on Easter Monday, marking the end of the Lenten period that began forty days earlier. Both Easter Sunday and Monday are public holidays in France. While the Easter dates fluctuate annually, it is always in the early spring, a religious symbol that coincides with nature’s rebirth.
The Easter Egg
Why is the egg inseparable from Easter? This practice has both pagan and religious origins. Since ancient times, it has represented fertility, rebirth and life. Receiving an egg was a good omen. The Persians offered eggs in the season of renewal.
In the Christian religion, it was forbidden to eat eggs during Lent, 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. So people cooked the eggs to preserve them, painted them red to symbolize the blood of Christ and finally offer decorated eggs for Easter. Little by little, the decorations were enriched.
The tradition settled in France during the 13th Century. Among the nobles of the Renaissance, eggs became decorative objects in gold and silver or adorned with precious stones, which inspired the Fabergé egg.
In the 18th century, chocolate appeared in high society in Europe. First, people filled the eggshells with liquid chocolate. Then they found a way to solidify chocolate (in the 19th century), and little by little, the old-time easter candy looked the way we know today. Continue reading about the symbolism of the Easter egg in Marie-Helene’s original article.
The Easter period begins after Palm Sunday: this is the Holy Week. Maundy Thursday is when the bells of Rome fall silent in memory of the Last Supper. That day, the churches are flowered for the evening mass. In the Provence of our grandmothers, Christians “visited the altars,” according to the expression. The altar contains the host consecrated for Good Friday. The people of Provence visited at least three churches to pray and admire the flowers arranged around the altars.
Next comes Good Friday, commemorating the Passion of the Savior in the Christian religion. In remembrance of Christ’s sufferings, believers practice fasting or lean meals. We eliminate meat and fatty foods and favour low-calorie dishes, mainly fish-based. Because Lent, which started on Ash Wednesday, ends on Easter Sunday.
In Provence, the traditional Good Friday dish is aioli. This dish includes boiled cod, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables (green beans, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots). Historically snails picked up in the countryside were also added, although rarer today.
Easter Menu Ideas
Springtime in Provence is lovely. The sun shines brightly but expects an odd rainstorm. Moisture in this period is critical for the grapes, olives, and almonds to start their growing cycles. Expect to see the apple, pear, apricot, cherry, and plum trees blooming in March and April. Enjoy making lighter, brighter dishes to welcome the warmer weather.