Easter's Coming and Bells will be ringing... 12:17 p.m. 2006-03-23

Easter is coming up soon - April 16th (that is also my sister's birthday!) - and I have put some items on E-Bay to celebrate the Easter season! If you don't want to wait out an auction, I also have them available at my Maison Celeste I-Offer Store.

Glitter Egg Ornaments - I bought - oh, uh, about 3,000 of these eggs at Pier One (I got a REALLY good deal...) and I was planning on making Easter wreaths encrusted in eggs - I even did one as a prototype, but I bet it will be a fortune to mail! I am selling them in batches of 50 - really 60 or so because I fill up the box! - for $1.99. I have sold 650 so far - my husband is flabbergasted!

Chicken Baskets - I also have a lot of these! I am selling them in lots of 4 for $3.99. I use the flowers to embellish my art, and I planned on using the basket frames for something else.

I also bought some rustic wood garlands with carrots and eggs strung on hemp cord - very cute:

Easter Garland

Easter Bells

Finally, I will be selling Easter Bells - They are paper mache bells that I have painted and decoupaged. I usually fill them with candy, and tie them up in cellophane with curling ribbon. I am too lazy to explain the tradition, so here's an article called Bells and Fishes by Susan Herrmann Loomis, who wrote On Rue Tatin.

Easter is almost here, and pastry shops throughout France are geared up. For several weeks they've been progressively decorating their windows in a vibrant collection of white and dark chocolate chickens, rabbits, fish, and bells.

Fish and bells? Yes, both are inextricably part of French Easter, and pastry shops make the most of them. The fish are made of the finest chocolate, and they come complete with scales and limpid eyes. Some are fat and tied around the belly with a ribbon so that when the ribbon is undone, dozens of baby chocolate fish cascade out.

Chocolate fish appear on April 1st, when the funniest thing a child can do is make a paper fish and stick it to the back of the nearest adult then run away yelling poisson d'avril!, the French version of April Fools. (This all dates back a few centuries to popular anger at Charles IX, who in 1564 changed the calendar so that New Year's fell on January 1, rather than the customary April 1. The original "April fish" joke, it is said, involved sending a dupe to the market to buy freshwater fish when it was out of season.) The fish endure until Easter, and no celebration would be complete without them.

I can make sense of fish at Easter. At least it still concretely coincides with the opening of fishing season. But bells?

French Catholics (most French people) believe that all the church bells in France fly to Rome on Good Friday, carrying with them the grief of those who believe Jesus was crucified on that day. The bells make a joyful return Easter morning to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, loaded with eggs and chocolates which they deposit in gardens so children can hunt for them when they awake. To lend substance to the story, not a bell in France rings from Good Friday to Easter morning.

Well, try explaining this to anyone who wasn't raised thinking it. My family and I have absorbed much of the French culture, but Easter bells escape us. We hold, instead, to the much more believable notion that a thoughtful rabbit hops into our home to deposit a basket of goodies by our son's bed. If you had the choice, which would you believe?

The French notion is more delicious, of course. We station ourselves at pastry shop windows, struggling to choose among white chocolate bells decorated with dark chocolate, the milk chocolate bells filled with multi-colored sugar eggs, the dark chocolate bells filled with praline or hazelnut cream.

But even as we lick the last bit of melted chocolate bell from our hands, we stick with our own cultural myths. Perhaps another fifteen years and we, too, will acknowledge the flight of bells to Rome, but somehow I don't think so.

—Susan Herrmann Loomis, April 10, 1998

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