When a public holiday takes place in France, most businesses, shops and offices will close although you’ll find supermarkets and bakers may open in the morning and some restaurants may open. It is worth checking in advance to make sure and reserve restaurant tables if you can.
If a public holiday falls on a Thursday or Tuesday, it is quite usual for businesses to also close on the Friday or Monday to create a long weekend known as “faire le pont” (make a bridge).
Public Holidays France explained:
New Year’s Day – 1 January (Fixed date)
France, like most other countries that follow the Gregorian calendar, takes a national holiday on the first of January to celebrate the New Year. Shops and business close early on New Year’s Eve and most families celebrate with a dinner known as” Le Réveillon” which can last for several hours! Firework displays are common, parties in local town halls and salles des fetes, and in the large towns there are public gatherings – especially in Paris.
It is said that the weather on New Year’s Day can predict the harvest for the coming year! An east wind means fruit harvests will be bountiful; if the wind is blowing west then livestock and fish will be plentiful. A south wind means clement weather for the year ahead and if the wind is blowing north, the crops will fail.
Good Friday – Changeable date
The Christian holiday of Good Friday, known as Vendredi Saint in French, is observed in eastern Alsace. The rest of France goes to work as normal.
Easter Sunday – changeable date
Easter is an important holiday in France and encompasses several traditions, both religious and secular, with many choosing to attend church services. Wish neighbours and friends a “joyeuses Pâques” (Happy Easter) at this time of year.
As with many important French dates, food takes a prime position and it is traditional for families to celebrate Easter Sunday with traditional family lunch, often lamb is on the menu and fabulous cakes!
Easter Monday – changeable date
Lundi de Pâques, Easter Monday, is a national holiday in France. Easter egg hunts and Easter parades are traditional. It’s a day for enjoying a fabulous chocolate egg or sweet concoction from a chocolatier shop – a joy to behold and to eat!
May Day/Labour Day – 1 May (Fixed date)
The first of May each year is the date of La Fête du Muguet or La Fête du Travail. The Muguet is the Lily of the Valley flower and it is traditional to give a plant to friends and family, this custom goes back to 1561 when King Charles IX of France was give the flower as a lucky charm and loved the idea so much he decided to give the ladies of the court a Lily of the Valley flower each year.
Victory in Europe Day – 8 May (Fixed date)
Each year on the eighth of May is the holiday for ‘Victoire 1945’ which is also called ‘la fête de la victoire’. The date marks the end of World War II hostilities in Europe and is the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s announcement on 8 May 1945 of the end of World War II in France.
Ascension Day – (Changeable date)
A national holiday across France, held 40 days after Easter Sunday, and always on a Thursday.
Whit Monday – 9 June 2014
Always held on a Monday, the day after Pentecostal Sunday, (50 days after Easter Sunday).
Bastille Day – 14 July
A national holiday, commemorating the 1790 Fête de la Fédération of the French Revolution. Bastille Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year, celebrated throughout France with fireworks, parties and in Paris a military parade. The day is named Bastille after the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris at the start of the French Revolution.
Assumption Day – Assomption – 15 August (Fixed Date)
Known as L’Assomption de Marie in French and it is a public holiday that celebrates the day that the Virgin Mary’s body and spirit were assumed to heaven.
All Saints’ Day – 1 November
1st November is a national holiday known as La Toussaint (All Saints) All Saints’ Day is a day to remember those that have died and it is traditional to place bright coloured chrysanthemum plants in cemeteries on the graves of loved ones.
Armistice Day in France – 11 November
Armistice Day or Remembrance Day is marked each year on 11 November to commemorate the end of World War I. Communities across France gather to remember the names of soldiers who have been lost in War and lay wreaths at memorials in towns and countries the length of the country.
Christmas Day – 25 December
Almost everything closes on Christmas Day although some restaurants will remain open (particularly in hotels) but try to make a reservation well in advance if you wish to eat out.
Christmas is a time for enjoying good food with a long dinner on Christmas Eve known as Le Réveillon being a tradition in many households. Christmas Day dinner is not quite as important as it is in other countries like the UK.
Read more about Public holidays and other key dates in France
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