This is a special holy weekend around the world and I send warm wishes to those celebrating Easter or Passover ~ Chag Sameach. Of course, in these days of the CoronaVirus or Covid-19, all observances will be unlike ever before for everyone around the globe. I hope you are finding ways to connect with family and friends. Thank goodness for Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. At least we can see each other.
As I was doing some reading this week, I came across an article that spoke volumes to me about a meaningful message for both Passover and Easter. It had to do with hope, something so important to us even more so now.
This week in Prime Minister Trudeau’s daily address to the nation, he suggested children draw colourful pictures of Easter eggs and put them in the windows of their home. This was to remind the Easter Bunny to leave extra treats for healthcare workers and people performing essential services to help us through the current crisis. We owe them our gratitude in so many ways and I thought it was a lovely way to encourage children to think of these people. It’s such a hard time for youngsters and difficult to understand how their world has changed for the moment.
The tradition of Easter chocolate in France is very different. On the Thursday night before Easter, all the church bells go silent for the weekend. The ringing of the bells throughout the country on Easter Sunday morning alerts children to wake and search for their chocolate treats … not delivered by a bunny! Click on this link and get the full story from my friend, author Margo Lestz, who knows all the details of this longstanding tradition. She has an excellent post here comparing the traditions of children and chocolate at Easter. You will be surprised how the legends differ.
Chocolate is not quite so important at Passover. But the traditions and foods that go along with the special meal, the seder, are celebrated every year.
In many countries the month begins with April Fool’s Day, although again this year I think it was cancelled more than anything. But for those who haven’t heard before, you may be interested in knowing how April 1st is celebrated in an altogether unique way in France.
Imagine my surprise the first time I saw children sticking paper fish on each other’s back, whispering and giggling, and then hollering, “Poisson d’Avril!”
As Wikipedia explains: “In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other’s back as a trick and shout “April fish!” in their local languages (pesce d’aprile!, poisson d’avril! and aprilvis! in Italian, French and Flemish, respectively). Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards.
I had no idea where the tradition began and, after a bit of searching, found this explanation on France Travel Guide.
“Although the origin of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.
The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1.
However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them.
Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.”
Boulangeries and patisseries deliciously get into the spirit with fish-shaped goodies. Oh … and did I mention the chocolatiers? Schools of fish of all sizes fill shop windows, the larger ones often filled with smaller treats. To a chocoholic, fish never tasted so good!
Since Easter usually falls around the same time, fish feature predominantly in shop windows through that holiday as well.
On The Good Life France (amazing photography and articles ~ you know I’m a huge fan!), there’s another article by Margo Lestz about April 1st in France. Margo writes perfectly-researched articles, as well as entertaining books about some of the quirky history and traditions of France. Click here to visit her website!
I hope you find this post a bit of a diversion from more pressing issues. One positive aspect of these days of confinement is the opportunity to do a lot of reading, pursue other interests and stay connected with each other. It’s so important to stay home and stay safe.
My heart goes out to anyone who has been impacted by the virus, either directly or indirectly and I send heartfelt wishes for a full recovery to those who are sick and hope for the future to those whose jobs have been impacted. Sincere condolences to families who have lost loved ones. The selfless healthcare and essential workers around the world who are on the front lines are inspiring. We are so grateful to you.
Keep hope alive. Stay well.