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Joyeuses Pâques: 10 French Easter-themed sayings with bells and eggs

Every year it is the même son de cloche, Easter rolls around bringing chocolate, a public holiday and, in France, flying bells

Flying bells

In France, it is said that church bells fly off to be blessed by the Pope, returning on Saturday evening bearing chocolates and gifts Pic: margouillat photo / Shutterstock

It is Easter Sunday this weekend, meaning a public holiday on Monday and, as always, lots of chocolate. 

In France, many families and friends will gather to eat a traditional meal of gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). Easter egg hunts are also popular.

In many regions of France, it is not the Easter Bunny who brings the chocolate and sweets, but flying church bells (les cloches de Pâques). 

From Thursday until Saturday night over Easter weekend, church bells are silent around the country. 

Children are told that they have flown off to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope. They return on Saturday night bearing chocolate and presents to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is only then that they will ring around the country again. 

The bells are said to scatter their gifts around gardens, in fields, on balconies or in houses, which children can then hunt for. 

By way of celebrating Easter, we look at 10 expressions in French using the words oeuf, cloche or poule (egg, bell or chick). 

1. Quelle cloche! (literally what a bell!)

It may sound funny but this is not something you want to hear. It generally refers to someone who is an idiot.

2. Quelque chose qui cloche (literally something that bells)

This means something does not feel right. It comes from the verb clocher derived from the Latin verb claudicare meaning to limp. If you limp, there is something wrong.

3. Sonner les cloches de quelqu’un (to ring someone’s bells)

It means to tell off someone. You can also say ‘je me suis fait sonner les cloches’ if you are the person concerned. The expression comes from the fact bells are very loud. It is a metaphor for anger.

4. Donner le même son de cloche (to give the same bell sound)

This means telling the same story as someone else. However, you can hear deux sons de cloches différents, which means you hear two sides of the same story.

Other similar expressions are ‘qui n’entend qu’une cloche n’entend qu’un son’ (whoever hears only one bell hears one sound) meaning a part of the story has not been told.

5. Se taper la cloche (to hit someone’s bell)

It means to have a feast where you eat so much your head (the cloche) is full.

To give an example, after eating a very hearty meal of gigot d’agneau, you could say, ‘je me suis tapé(e) la cloche’ to mean you have eaten a feast. 

6. Qui vole un oeuf vole un boeuf (who steals an egg steals a cow)

This means if someone can steal a small thing he can also steal more important things.

7. On ne peut pas faire d’omelette sans casser des oeufs (we cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs)

This means you cannot accomplish something without making a sacrifice. This expression was introduced by French author Balzac in the 19th century.

8. Se coucher avec les poules (to go to sleep with the chickens)

Chickens are known to sleep when the sun goes down so if someone sleeps with the chickens it means they go to sleep early. Sometimes you can also hear ‘se lever avec les poules’ (to get up with the chickens) which means to get up early.

9. Maman poule or papa poule (mummy chicken or daddy chicken)

A mother or a father can be described like this when they are protective of their children.

10. Nid de poule (chicken’s nest)

In French, this literally means a chicken’s nest but is also the word for a pothole. 

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