Public Holidays In France 2012
French has public holidays which indicate its Roman Catholic roots and other public holidays celebrating landmarks in the country’s history. Being part of United Europe France shares many of its public holidays with other European countries.
Calendar of French Public Holidays in 2012
New Year’s Day – 1st January
The first day of the new Gregorian calendar in France is celebrated by exchanging gifts and greeting cards, papillottes – chocolates which pop when opened are sold and at midnight the Eiffel tower lights up and throughout the city there are firework display. The partying is done on the eve of the public holiday which is mainly spent sleeping off the hang-over!
Easter Monday – 1st April 2013 (first Sunday after the full moon after 21st March)
In France the rebirth of Christ is commemorated on Thursday and on Good Friday but the actual public holiday is on Easter Monday when the church bells ring out throughout the country, there are events and celebrations associated with chocolate, eggs, fish (even chocolate fish), chocolate bells and chocolate rabbits. Like in other Christian countries kids eat chocolate eggs but here the chocolate shops also have incredible window displays and eggs are elegantly decorated. At parties games are played like egg hunts and rolling an egg down a hill.
May Day/Labor Day – 1st May
The achievements both socially and commercially of laborers are celebrated on May Day. In France you may see people on the streets selling Lily of the valley (muguet) in order to raise money for the labor unions. It is traditional to give a posse of these flowers to your loved one on this day. Because of this custom the holiday is also called Le Jour du Muguet. Apart from that the day is used by employees to have a day of rest and relaxation with their families while worker’s unions organize happenings for workers.
Victory Day – 8 May
This day marks the end of World War II in Europe, France was one of the Allies which defeated the Nazis in 1945. For France this celebration is even more significant than to other European countries as the actual agreement was signed in Reim, France. On this day there are parades in the streets, the streets are decorated with the French flag and there are also official ceremonies. In Paris there is a celebration on Champs-Elyees which is attended by the French President and veterans, a wreath is then placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Ascension Day – 9th May 2013 (39 days after Easter)
On this day Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven after his resurrection 40 days earlier on Easter Sunday. On this day there are special church services in France and if it falls on a Thursday peoples take the opportunity to take a long weekend away.
Whit Monday/Pentecost Monday – 20th May 2013 (Monday after Pentecost, 10 days after Ascension Day)
This day marks the end of the Easter Cycle when the Holy Spirit appeared to the Apostles in the form of flames. In France the holiday was canceled from 2005 to 2007 and reinstated in 2008 but in the form of a solidarity day when workers can voluntarily give up a day of leave, compensation day or vacation day, ostensibly so that the money will go to the less fortunate. Religiously the day is less significant that other Christian holy days but services are still held in churches.
Bastille Day – 14th July
The national day of France celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution which led to an independent, democratic country when civilians stormed the Bastille in protest of the unjust authorities in 1789. The Bastille Day Military Parade takes place down the Champs-Elysees in Paris in the morning, the procession is attended by the President and his government representatives. There is a spectacular fly pass of military aircrafts and in the evening there are firework displays. The streets are decked out with flags, parties are held and a good time is had by all.
Assumption Day – 15th August
Celebrating the taking up of the Virgin Mary to heaven this holy day is celebrated in France with a sumptuous feast and special church services. The largest religious service is usually in Lourdes and in other parts of the country there are big firework displays. The Virgin Mary is also the Patron Saint of France so this holiday has deep significance to the largely Roman Catholic population.
All Saints Day – 1st November (first Sunday of November)
This day celebrates all the saints that the Roman Catholic Church recognizes and it is a big celebration in France it is also the day when friends and family who have passed away are remembered. People often place candles on the graves of loved ones on the eve of All Saints’ Day as well as chrysanthemum flowers. The churches are draped in black on the eve of All Saints’ Day and a meal is eaten at midnight in honor of the dead. Churches are also decorated with candles and flowers, the church bells are rung and there are special church services on the day of the holiday.
V-Day/ Veteran’s Day/ Armistice Day/ Remembrance Day – 11th November
This day commemorates the end of World War I, the agreement to cease the war was signed on French soil in 1918. Like many other European countries poppies are worn and used in wreaths which are laid on memorials and on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier. There are parades such as the Arc de Triumph parade down the Champs-Elysees and at 11 am there is a minutes silence observed in memory not only of the soldiers who died in WWI but of all soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their country.
Christmas Day – 25th December
Celebration of the birth of Christ is much like in other countries in Europe, on Christmas Eve there is a celebratory meal (Le Reveillon) and many attend a midnight mass at church. It is traditional to decorate the home with a Christmas tree and a nativity scene which includes a butcher, baker, priest and policeman. Cherry wood logs are placed in the fire places and sprinkled with wine to give a sweet smell and gifts are exchanged. The festivities often last throughout December and 12 days after Christmas.