Les cloches volantes
Have you heard of the flying Easter bells? Cloches volantes or flying bells are an important part of the French Easter traditions.
With the majority of French people being Roman-Catholic, it’s not surprising even the smallest villages have a church. Most churches have a bell which is joyfully rung to celebrate important occasions throughout the year.
From about the 12th century, it has been customary to silence the bells in the lead up to Easter to acknowledge the death of Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, the church bells stop ringing.
Legend has it that on Good Friday, something magical happens. The bells of every church in France leave their steeples and fly to Rome. They carry with them the grief of those who mourn Jesus’ crucifixion on that day. In keeping with the tradition, French church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning when the bells are said to return.
The sound of the bells on Easter Sunday morning heralds the celebration of the Resurrection, declaring that Jesus is alive again. In some villages, people kiss and embrace each other when they hear the bells ring again.
Les cloches de Pâques
The exciting part for French children is the Easter bells (les cloches de Pâques) do not come back empty. The bells are believed to return from Rome full of coloured eggs, chocolates and other treats. They drop the goodies in gardens across France on their way back to their churches.
Easter Sunday or Easter Monday is a wonderous time for children as they go on Easter egg hunts to find these treats. It’s no wonder children anxiously await the sound of the bells on Easter Sunday.
Lolly shops in France sell chocolate flying bells alongside the usual Easter eggs, chocolate chickens and bunnies.