Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, and for Roman-Catholic France that means it’s time to start readying their church bells for their flight to Rome on Good Friday. Now, even as a lapsed Catholic, I know that Good Friday is at the end of Lent and that Easter is still 40 days away.
It’s just that I love the myth around the Easter bells in France, so I wanted to share it early on. Plus, I like to imagine that those chimers need at least 4 or 5 weeks to get polished up and ready for their long journey.
France is a country where even the smallest villages have a Catholic church and most of those churches have steeples. So it follows that there are a large number of bells that need to brush up on their flying skills between now and Easter. As the crow flies, it is 687-miles/1,106-km between Paris and Rome, and many of the bells have much further to travel than that.
If you live in France, you’ll notice that all the bells are completely silent between Good Friday and Easter morn. Not a clink or clank nor a ding or dong will be heard over those 48-hours. Why? Because those curious bells have all packed up, left their steeples, and taken off for the Vatican to visit the Pope, bringing with them their Lenten sorrows.
But don’t fear, before the sun comes up on Easter morning, they quickly make their way back to their homes in France and ring with joy as dawn breaks to celebrate the Resurrection. Les cloches de Pâques, as they are now called, bring with them Easter eggs, chocolates bunnies and other treats, dropping them (to the delight of French children ) into homes along their flight path.
Which to me makes just as much sense, if not more, than a 6-foot tall, bipedal bunny, with a kind of scary face, sneaking into our homes on Easter Eve and hiding eggs and baskets in hard to reach places.
So, keep you eyes peeled over the next 40-days to see if the bells in your closest steeple are gussying up for their voyage to Italy. And of course, be on the lookout for the glorious chocolate bells starting to appear in your local chocolatiers’ windows.
Les cloches de Pâques: The Easter Bells