White mustard flowers near the town of Travaillan

Below, you will discover a popular French adage (and nifty weather predictor!). It says that if you have sunshine and mild times at Christmas, watch out! You're in for cold weather at Easter! I can vouch for that. This morning the grape fields were blanketed by snow! And only yesterday "snowy" flowers covered the countryside.

Pâques (pak) noun, masculine

  : Easter

            Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison*
Christmas on the balcony, Easter by the fireside.

*un tison (m) = a half-burned log

Listen to my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, pronounce today's word & proverb:
Download paques.mp3 . Download paques.wav

"If this is Pâques," I asked Jean-Marc's aunt, then what do the French do on Easter Monday? After a thoughtful pause, Marie-Françoise answered. "On récupère de la fête!"

Well, I could relate to that! There we were, all eighteen of us, halfway through a 10-hour Espinasse family festin. If a mere eight of those hours were spent eating, that's because we were sensible enough to take a two-hour break from the interminable table.

Our "pause digestive" sent us outdoors, chasing wild "col vert" mallards from the marais beyond the backyard vine fields. Only, the duck detour was short-lived when an ice-cold wind numbed our ears--as well as our envies. Fireside, my French family settled into a *seated* siesta. Impressed, I noticed the not-so-novice nappers who could nod off without even falling from the chair!

Marie-Françoise and I went upstairs to chat in a second-story study.

"People sometimes ask about the French equivalent for "Happy Easter," I explained. If the answer is "Joyeuses Pâques" then, tell me: What is the exact translation of the word Pâques?" After another thoughtful pause, my aunt came up with a suggestion.

"Cherchons dans le dictionnaire!"

Flipping through the pages of Le Petit Larousse, we found a definition. There, below "papyrus"--and just above paquebot--the French words in between yielded the answer:

PAQUE n.f. (from the Greek "paskha," and from the Hebrew "pessah" [passage])

1. Fête annuelle juive qui commémore la sortie d'Egypt du peuple hébreu.... (Annual Jewish festival that commemorates the exodus from Egypt of the Hebrew peoples...) 2. Agneau pascal. (Passover lamb.)

Further down the page, just after the word pâquerette, and one column across from paraclet, the word Pâque gains an "s" and loses its femininity:

PÂQUES n.m. (from pâque)

1. Fête annuelle de l'Église chrétienne, qui commémore la résurrection de Jésus-Christ.... (Annual festival of the Christian church that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

I admit to having felt the need to sleep on all that information and, by this morning, I was ready to piece together some of what I'd learned. At the breakfast table, I turned to my husband to share some facts.

"I learned a little about the word Pâques yesterday," I informed him.
"Alors," Jean-Marc replied. "Just what does the word EASTER mean?"

"Easter? Easter! But Aunt Marie-Françoise and I didn't look THAT one up!"

"Well, if I had to guess," Jean-Marc said, "I think it has to do with the word "east," the direction in which people walked during the Exodus."

Though I didn't tell my husband, the truth is I was as impressed with him and his Easter answer as I was with those not-so-novice nappers, who never did fall out of their chairs.


Easter Monday = le lundi (m) de Pâques; On récupère de la fête! = We recuperate  from the festivities!; le festin (m) = feast, banquet; la pause (f) digestive = digestive pause; le col (m) vert = green-collared; le marais (m) = marsh(land); une envie (f) = desire; Cherchons dans le dictionnaire! = Let's look in the dictionary!; le Petit Larousse (m) = French/French dictionary (recommended); le paquebot (m) = liner, steam(ship); la pâquerette (f) daisy; le paraclet (Le Paraclet) (m) = an advocate, The Holy Spirit (le Saint-Esprit), the Comforter; alors = well, then

French chocolate Easter egg (c) Kristin Espinasse

A French chocolate Easter egg for sale at the baker's. 

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety