In 2009, "dimanche de Pâques" will take place on April the 12th, followed by "lundi de Pâques" on the 13th. Monday is a public holiday (un jour férié).
Each year, the date of Easter is determined by the lunar calendar.
Lent (le carême) is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. For many Christians, this is a period of fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter, culminating in a feast of seasonal and symbolic foods. Mardi Gras (and also “carnaval”) is a celebration practiced on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. It was designed as a way to "get it all out" before the sacrifices of Lent began.
Easter is a religious public holiday, it is the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection. Just before Easter, "Vendredi Saint" is
the day of the death of the Christ. That's why on "Vendredi Saint", christians must not eat meat.
Some people will go to church. For other people, it's just a public holiday. Pâques is like Christmas, religious people and non religious people celebrate Pâques at least with a family meal (for lunch).
When we talk about Pâques, we also use the expression "Pascal" : fête Pascale, week-end Pascal...
If you watch TV you will also see "le Pape" (pope) performing his "urbi et orbi" blessing.
Pâques is a very important religious day, as important as Christmas.
As Pâques is coming, you must have noticed all this chocolate in the shops : when it's Pâques we eat chocolate. In fact, we buy some chocolate (shaped like bells, eggs, rabbits...), hide this chocolate in our garden or apartment. Then kids must find it.
In many cities, a kind of treasure hunt is organized, it's a "chocolate eggs hunt". Most of the time it's only for kids, but in some cities, even adults are allowed to do it. It's very cool, because each time you find a chocolate, you can eat it !
Throughout history, eggs have been associated with Easter celebrations. In ancient times, the egg was a symbol of fertility and new beginnings. Christians adopted this to represent Jesus Christ's resurrection.
What would French people eat for Easter ?
Well, I would say we have foie gras as an entrée.
Then a « gigot d'agneau » a leg of lamb. You will see ads about "agneau de Pâques" or "agneau Pascal" in the shops.
There's no special dessert, it's not like Christmas and the « bûche ». You might see cakes in the « boulangerie pâtisserie » decorated with sugar or chocolate eggs on top. But that's it. And it's even not traditional.
What is also famous with « Pâques » is that it's the first long week-end of the year, and it's during spring, so a lot of
French people leave to the South of France. Warm and beautiful weather ! And a lot of traffic !
See the list of the jours fériés/public holidays in France