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Apr 29

May Day in France, what do people do?

May Day / La Fête du Muguet in France is a public holiday / a jour fériés to celebrate workers rights! in the UK we tend to move public holiday days to the Monday but as with most jour fériés in France they stay on the day the occur. It is also an occasion to present Muguet / Lily of the Valley or dog rose flowers to loved ones, friends and neighbours. The day is also known as La Fête du Travail which never seems to happen in the Cle France Office!

So what do people do?

People in many areas give bouquets of Muguet / Lily of the Valley or dog rose flowers, I knew a friend who would cycle around the village and surrounding villages, in a rural corner of Mayenne, giving out single stem of Muguet to all her friends and take all day doing it!

The custom is particularly common in the area around Paris known as Ile-de-France. Families with children in the rural areas get up very early in the morning and go into the woods to pick Muguet. Individuals and flower stalls in urban areas sell bouquets of Muguet / Lily of the Valley on May 1st if you don't want to go and pick some yourself. There are special regulations that allow people and some companies to sell these flowers on May 1st without paying tax or complying with retail regulations, kerching!

 Muguet is given on May day in France

In industrial towns some trade unions use the day to campaign for workers rights. Some people or even large organisations also use the day to campaign for human rights in general or to demonstrate against racism or highlight current social issues. 

Jour fériés:

May 1st is a public holiday. Post offices, banks, stores and other businesses are closed, Cle France remains open in the UK. Outside of tourist areas, restaurants and cafes may be closed. However, some stores in Paris, and other major towns and cities will be open. Public transport service schedules vary depending on where you live and where you want to go to. Parades and demonstrations may cause disruption to traffic in the center of large cities, particularly Paris, Reims, Rennes and Rouen. 

Now for the History Lesson:

King Charles IX of France was presented with Muguet / Lily of the Valley flowers on May 1st 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present Muguet / Lily of the Valley flowers to the ladies of his court each year on May 1st. Around 1900, men started to present a bouquet of flowers to women to express their affection. The flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members these days and has not bee turned into a second Valentines day.

The eight-hour working day was officially introduced in France on April 23, 1919, and May 1st became a public holiday. May Day was not observed during World War II. However, May 1st became a public holiday again in 1947 and officially became known as La Fête du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. Since then, it has been an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers' rights.

We know it as just goof old fashioned May Day but, of course, it is also known as Labor Day in other parts of the world.

Symbols:

Muguet / Lily of the Valley and dog rose flowers are symbols of May Day in France.

The Romance: 

Ever since its introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages (bet you did not know that!) Muguet / Lily of the Valley has been regarded as a lucky charm by the Celtic folks from many countries.

There was also an old European tradition of 'bals de muguet' or Muguet dances; once a year, this was a rare occasion for young singles to meet without having to get parents’ permission. The girls would dress in white and the boys would wear a sprig of muguet as a buttonhole, how very quaint.

From around 1900, it became traditional in France for men to present a bouquet of flowers to their sweethearts to express their love and affection. Nowadays, sadly of course, the romance has drifted out of the tradition and 'Muguet ' flowers are really only given as a general token of appreciation between close friends and family members.

Blog submitted by: Sharon at The French Property Network - Cle France.

 

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Apr 7

Easter Vocabulary in French

Joyeuses Paques ! Some Easter Vocabulary in French

This week has been a holy one for Christians around the world. It’s called Paschal Triduum (and is sometimes referred to as the Easter Triduum), and it contains 3 important days in the life of Jesus Christ. Maundy Thursday (jeudi saint) commemorates the Maundy (the Washing of the Feet) and the Last Supper. Good Friday (vendredi saint) refers to the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and Holy Saturday (you guessed it – samedi saint) commemorates the day Jesus’s body lay in the tomb.

The following day is Easter Sunday (Pâques), and it’s about a lot more than some dyed eggs and chocolate.

On this day –  'le troisième jour' (the third day) – we celebrate la résurrection de Jésus (the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Ash Wednesday (mercredi des Cendres) is the start of Lent (le carême) and lasts 40 days. It’s common for followers to choose something to give up for Lent.

"Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. For catechumens, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion."

I think it’s fair to say that most things people choose to abstain from aren’t exactly sins – some of my friends gave up and Starbucks and Facebook this year.

While Easter always falls on a Sunday, the date on the calendar varies every year. We celebrate this date on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, so we’re looking at some point between March 22nd and April 25th.

In France during the Paschal Triduum? Don’t expect to hear any Church bells.

The tradition states that all church bells fly to the Vatican to be blessed by le Pape (the Pope) before returning. They don’t come empty handed (let’s pretend that bells have hands for this) – they come back with gifts and chocolates and drop them off into the homes of children on the way back.

Cle France Blogs

Let’s take a look at Easter-related vocabulary in French

Paques – Easter  (note that this word is not used with an article and always has an S

la Paque – Passover (note the lack of S and the usage of an article)

pascal(e) – adjective meaning 'of Easter'

le Careme – Lent

le mercredi des Cendres – Ash Wednesday

le dimanche des Rameaux – Palm Sunday

la semaine sainte – Holy Week

le jeudi saint – Maundy Thursday

le vendredi saint – Good Friday

le samedi saint – Holy Saturday

les cloches de Paques – Flying Easter Bells

le printemps – spring

une église – church

un panier – a basket

un jeune – fast, fasting

le chocolat – chocolate

un œuf – egg

un lapin – rabbit

un poussin – chick

une poule – hen

un agneau – lamb

un poisson – fish

Cle Mortgages

Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Apr 1

April Fools Day - Paper Fish

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril - April Fish. Why else would we show you a picture of a fish rather than a house for sale in France!

Many a 1st April has been spent with me walking round completely oblivious to the fact I have a paper fish on my back, read on to learn why.

In all regions of France there will be a lot more Fish available and being bought for celebratory lunches, a bit like Pancake Day BUT with Fish!

April Fools day in France

Photo by OrigamiNate on Flickr.

Humour can be a bit hard to understand in another language, whether it’s a "knock knock" joke, or an inside joke that you’re not in on. Heureusement (fortunately), April Fool’s Day exists in France. That said, it has a different set of traditions and a very different name: April Fish or in French, Poisson d’arvil.

The holiday is celebrated with des plaisanteires et des canulars (jokes and pranks), but also by trying to accrocher un poisson de papier dans le dos de tes amis (stick paper fish on your friends’ backs)!

The name poisson d’avril comes from an old tradition dating back to 1564. La légende veut que (Legend has it that) the year used to start on April 1st, but was changed to January 1st by Charles IX. The old new year’s tradition involved a gift exchange, mais (but) some people n’étaient pas au courant du changement (were not aware of the change) and continued to exchange gifts on April 1st after le changement. Other people then used the occasion de se moquer d’eux (to make fun of them)!

But why fish? The old new year était pendant (was during) the end of le Carême (Lent). Christians would be fasting, but they could still eat fish. The joke of giving un faux poisson (a fake fish) began as une blague (a joke) on the old tradition of giving real fish as gifts. Donc le nom (Thus the name), poisson d’avril.

The tradition continues today and kids all over France will try to sneak up and accrocher un poisson papier dans le dos de ses amis. When the friend le découvre (finds out), the surprise is met with shouts of Poisson d’arvil! much the same way un gag similaire (a similar gag) would be met with April Fool’s! in the English speaking world.

Voici une liste de vocabulaire pour le poisson d’arvil:

Une plaisanterie – A joke

Une blague – A joke, a trick

Un canular – A prank

Un gag – A joke, a gag

Un poisson papier – A paper Fish

Poisson d’avril! – April Fools!

Accrother un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un – Stick a paper fish on someone’s back

Start your pranking out right and accrochez un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un!

Cle Mortgages

Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Apr 1

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril - April Fish. That's why David & Sharon, the founders of Cle France, pictured in the postcard below are holding a fish!

In all regions of France there will be a lot more Fish available and being bought for celebratory lunches, a bit like Pancake Day BUT with Fish!

The first year my son played an April Fools joke on me I was confused as to why he kept shouting "Poisson d'Avril, Poisson d'Avril, Poisson d'Avril", the calming influence of my wife explaining why he was repeatedly shouting this phrase thankfully avoided me having him see a costly psychiatrist and as it turns out, he is fine. 

This postcard was originally sent in 1908 and the words on the bottom translate as:

'When you receive our nice fish, you'll know we're always thinking of you.'

To be honest if you opened the door at these two characters were standing there you would have a right to be scared! but they are no doubt charming friendly neighbours as is the norm in France.

The 'rules' of April Fool's and Poisson d'Avril are more or less the same thing, other than the French have a Fascination for Fish! The tradition in France is that along with practical jokes and bogus news stories, putting paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting victims is thought as hilarious, those crazy French japes eh! 

Here's a little April 1st film trivia for you: What gritty and stylish 1970's police movie takes place in Marseille where the opening scene is on April 1st?

See Below for the answer.

April Fools Day in France

Pictured above: David & Sharon earlier today!

ANSWER IS: the French Connection II. In the opening scenes of the movie, Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) meets Henri Barthélémy (played by Bernard Fresson), in front of the gendarmarie in Marseille. Barthélémy is looking for drugs, where else but in a fish of course, based on a tip. He doesn't find any, as it's a Poisson d'Avril it is a joke played on the police, get it?

Anybody played any good "Poisson d'Avril" jokes or had one played on them?

Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

Thanks for the website 'Americans in France' for the original French Postcard image.

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Feb 19

Mardi Gras celebrations in France and yummy recipe for Crepes

Shrove Tuesday on February 25th 2020 means that across the UK there will be people practising their pancake tossing !

But let us learn a little of how it is celebrated in France.

Origins of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a well-known event in New Orleans and in Brazil, but why is Mardi Gras celebrated in France?

Mardi Gras has a few different roots, some in Christian culture, and some in pagan culture. These days, Mardi Gras is seen as a Catholic tradition, but what people actually do on this day is quite different to what people do on other Catholic holidays. Like Christmas and Easter, Mardi Gras includes a very large meal and a gathering of friends and family, but neither Christmas nor Easter includes masks, costumes and unlimited dancing and fooling around. For this reason, Mardi Gras can be interpreted as a mix of Catholic and pagan traditions: the holiday is Catholic, and the means of celebrating it stem from local traditions.

As we know the period of Lent is the period leading up to Easter. Since the period of Lent requires Catholics to fast, or to give up certain foods if not fasting, as well as make general resolutions for oneself that require self-discipline, Mardi Gras is said to have been created for one last day of unlimited fun and eating before giving up so much during Lent. Originally, a fattened calf was slaughtered as a Mardi Gras feast; in some cultures, pancakes became a traditional Mardi Gras meal because the milk and butter had to be used up before Lent began, or thrown away.

The name Mardi Gras literally translates to Tuesday Fat (or in English: Fat Tuesday). The name comes from fattening the calf and feasting on it; Tuesday is always the day that precedes the beginning of Lent (which starts on Ash Wednesday).

While the origins of Mardi Gras in France are religious and spiritual, Mardi Gras is mainly celebrated today simply because it is fun. While many Catholics still actively observe Lent and the traditions of not indulging excessively, Mardi Gras is celebrated not only by those Catholics who are going into a period of limited indulgence, but also by the general public.

The biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in France are in Nice and in Paris. However, there are celebrations big and small all over North West France in cities, towns and villages.

So whether you observe it as a religious occasion or an excuse for a party the one thing in common is the delightful taste, when cooked correctly, of the humble Pancake or Crêpe.

Cle France Blogs

Recipe & instructions for the perfect French crêpe.

A delicious French crêpe is versatile and not only for one day a year, as we all know there is always a crêpe van at a French market and whatever your choice of topping it is a treat worth signing up for.

But a well cooked crêpe at home can add a sophisticated touch to any dinner or desert course. It may look simple, but aspiring cooks are often disappointed that their results don't turn out like the thin, delicate ones found from the van at the market or indulged in at a fancy restaurant. However, don't despair – we have the recipe and method for you to impress even the harshest of critics.

As with many things it is the technique involved that makes the difference !

So how to make the perfect French Crêpe? This crêpe recipe makes a double batch because the perfect number of eggs per batch is 1.5 and leftovers are always nice!

Instructions

Things You will Need:

  • a non-stick crêpe pan or skillet, preferably thick bottomed.
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tsp sugar (if you want a sweet, dessert style French crêpe)
  • 3 eggs
  • butter wrapper
  • large spoon or ladle
  • plate
  • thin spatula
  • eager children, hungry neighbours or friends and family

First beat the three eggs in a small bowl. Then, whisk together the flour, milk, and eggs in a large bowl until you have no lumps. Microwave the butter in a small cup or bowl for about 20 seconds. Add a few spoonfuls of the batter to the melted butter and mix well. Then whisk the mixture into the batter. Tilt the batter against the side of the bowl to make sure all lumps are gone.

The most important step to making a French crêpe is greasing the crêpe pan. Too much butter will cause burning and not enough will cause sticking. Warm the pan slightly on the stove. Using a tiny piece of butter, grease the crêpe pan with the butter wrapper. Push down very hard so that the pan slowly absorbs the butter.

Then, heat the crêpe pan to medium heat. You might need to adjust this down slightly as you cook each French crêpe.

Once the crêpe pan is heated, hold it in your left hand (if you are left handed hold it in your right hand) off the heat. Use a large spoon or ladle to scoop out a few tablespoons of batter and pour it into the middle of the pan. Quickly, but steadily, tilt the pan to swirl the batter and coat the pan as thinly as possible and form the French crêpe.

When the edge starts to firm (don't let it get brown yet), loosen it by sliding a thin spatula underneath and around the edges. Then, here comes the fun part, flip the French crêpe over (check the ceiling height first!). Cook the other side for about 30 seconds and then lift the crêpe pan and flip the crêpe over onto the plate.

Hold the crêpe pan in your left hand (if you're right handed) off the heat for about 20-30 seconds before pouring the next one. This lets the pan cool down enough so that the batter cooks less quickly when it first hits the pan and can spread more thinly.

Bask in the glory of being the best Crêpe maker in the house and try to have some left to enjoy your own perfect French crêpe!

Blog submitted by: David at Cle France.

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For everything you need to know about French property visit www.clefrance.co.uk

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