Sweet Treats, Food and Easter Traditions in Provence
The following article on Easter traditions in Provence is an excerpt from Marie Helene, the founder of Remember Provence. Online store Remember Provence sells Provencal-themed housewares, gift items and culinary ingredients to customers worldwide. In 2013, the French company relaunched the website and moved product sales to an entirely Internet-based store.
Easter in Provence
The French word pâques means “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, therefore, significant in the Jewish and Christian religions. Naturally, France, often referred to as the “eldest daughter of the [Catholic] Church”, is imbued mainly with this annual celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. It begins on Holy Thursday and ends the following Monday. It marks the end of the Lenten period that starts forty days earlier. Easter Sunday and Monday are public holidays in France.
For believers, it’s a grand celebration where baptisms are often celebrated. For all it is a symbolic moment, Easter indeed coincides with the rebirth of nature. The specific date fluctuates from year to year, as it is fixed on the first Sunday following the full moon itself following the vernal equinox. Moreover, many families celebrate with organized Easter egg hunts for the children.
By the way, why is the egg inseparable from Easter? This practice has both a pagan and a religious origin.
Since ancient times, it has represented fertility, rebirth and life. Perfection, too, thanks to its shape. Receiving an egg was a good omen. Some peoples, such as the Persians, already offered eggs in the season of renewal.
These unique Easter candy eggs in white nougat are filled with vanilla nougat papillotes inside. Its transparent shell is recoverable for future Easter decorations. The candy is a traditional nougat handcrafted by a Provencal confectionery since 1880.
The Easter period begins after Palm Sunday: this is the Holy Week. Maundy Thursday is the day 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, which commemorates 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 our region, the traditional Good Friday dish is aioli. This dish includes boiled cod, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables (green beans, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots), to which you could once add snails picked up in the countryside. Nowadays, it’s rarer.