Find out what are the important holidays in France.
I found it quite interesting to discover what days in France are free of work, when everything is closed, what are the celebrations they organize etc. But not only because I live here but also because I think this is a great information for tourists who are visiting and planning a stay in France. So, I created a list of France’s public holidays, French school breaks plus a few French celebrations and festivals to help us all understand how the French are organized.
A public holiday or bank holiday in France = Jour Férié
These are the days that most of the French have day off. Certain businesses, banks, grocery stores and some tourist attractions may be closed or have reduced hours. Public transportation may have reduced frequency or completely stop. So here you are, the 11 days of French public holidays
- New Year’s (Jour de l’An) January 1st.
- Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques). The day after Easter, which is a moveable feast whose date changes and can fall anywhere between Mar. 22 and Apr. 25
- Labour Day (Fête du Travail) May 1st. An Interesting fact here: although there are 11 public holidays in France where workers and students get the day off, Labour day is the only day when employers must pay employees for the day off. Another interesting fact: May 1st is also la Fête du Muguet (lilly of the valley celebration). The day of my fav flower.
- Victory in Europe Day (Victoire 1945) May 8th. Victory in Europe day, also know BN min as VE day and V Day celebrates the end of World War II in Europe.
- Ascension Thursday (Jeudi de l’Ascension) This is a moveable holiday: it is always on Thursday, it’s the 40th day of Easter. Interesting fact: because Ascension Holiday is on a Thursday, many Fench often take a long weekend. This is called faire le pont meaning to make the bridge.
- Whit Monday aka Pentecost Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte). Another moveable French holiday: 50 days after Easter Sunday. It’s interesting, the French are not so much religious but they have a long Christian history and celebrate many holy events like for example Pentecost which is a day when Christians pray the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Bastille Day (14 Juillet) or (Fête Nationale) July 14th. The Independence Day is the most popular and one of the most widely celebrated holidays in France.
- Assumption Day (Assomption) August 15th. You see, this is another Catholic holiday which celebrates the day Mary, the mother of Jesus is resurrected and taken to heaven.
- All Saints Day (Toussaint) Novembre 1st. The idea is similar to the event in Poland as this is a Catholic holiday when families visit graves to honour the dead of the beloved ones with flowers and lampions. However, in Poland there are masses of people on the cemeteries, in France I haven’t seen overcrowded cemeteries.
- Novembre 11th. It’s a day when armistice celebrates the end of WWI. In UK and Canada, it’s called Remembrance Day.
- Christmas (Noël) December 25th.
The Most Popular Celebrations in France
Because there are too many French celebrations and festivals to list, I’ve selected only the very top ones and the ones l like to give you an idea of what is important for French.
- Epiphany (Épiphanie) January 6th. It’s nothing else like the famous “La fête des Rois” three king’s day or “le Jour des Rois”. This day we also celebrate in Poland so I thought I know what is it in France. But surprisingly, the French have their own very cute tradition. For this day only, all French buy the famous special cake baked once a year for this occasion. It’s called les galette des Rois (King cake). It’s unusual cake, quite sweet with a little ‘feve’ – little figure inside which should be found by one person while eating. This person will become the king. It’s the fav game of the French kids.
- Candlemas (Chandeleur) February 2nd. One of the most popular holiday in France “La Chandeleur” which is a great opportunity for the French to get off the diet. It’s the famous day of eating crepes. All the supermarkets in France go totally crazy. The flour, eggs, the jams all flavours and beloved by the French Nutella is in your face on deals to buy as many as you can.
- Valentine’s Day (Saint-Valentin) February 14th. As for France, the country of love and passion, the French are not crazy about red valentine’s traditions. However, many French couples celebrate this day by enjoying a romantic dinner together or offering flowers.
- Fat Tuesday (Mardi – Gras). It is a moveable French holiday which can occur in February or March. It is always on a Tuesday precisely 47 days before Easter and one day before Lent / Ash Wednesday. This day also marks the end of the carnival festival season
- Grandma Day (Fête des Grands-mères). Premier dimanche de mars.
- April Fool’s Day (Poisson d’Avril). April 1st. Silly French holiday when the kids in France stick paper fish on the backs of people as a joke.
- May Day (Fête du Muguet). May 1st. This is my fav celebration in France. Because I love the mugets ( Lilly of the Valley flowers). So you can buy the little flowers in any corner. Why? Because, it’s customary to offer “les Muguet” to friends and family. If you offer a sprig of Lily of the valley flowers with 13 bells, it’s supposed to bring you extra good luck.This day in France, it’s also the labour day, an official public holiday which I mentioned above.
- Neighbour’s day (Fête des Voisins). Usually the last Friday of May. Apparently very popular in France but I have never took part in it. The idea is to meet your neighbours and make new friends.
- Mother’s Day (Fête des Mères). Last Sunday of May
- Music Festival (Fête de la Musique). June 21st. Crazy day and night in France, beloved by the French and very popular. It’s a day when people are allowed to play music in public spaces and parks. Free concerts are also organized, where musicians play for fun. Everyone’s having good fun!
- Father’s Day (Fête des Pères). Third Sunday of June.
- Halloween (Halloween) Octobre 31st. So not French holiday. I would even say: totally out of the French style but more and more people started to introduce it and each year the number of Halloween parties, dressed up kids and sweets sold in the shops is growing. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Well, a little bit of fun is good for everyone! So don’t think too much, just enjoy the atmosphere.
- New Year’s Eve (Réveillon) January. Also called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre in honour of pope Sylvestre, the 33rd pope of Rome from the 4th century.
Lastly, school holidays for French kids.
The school year in France for all children begins the first week of September. In addition to the 11 annual bank holidays, kids also have five school breaks. Each one last around two weeks except for the summer holiday which lasts about two months. It’s important to know them as that affects the lifestyle of the French people. Many of the French take days off, go on holidays. Many tourists spots are overcrowded. It’s not ideal to plan your holidays that time on France if you have a choice. So here you are, School Breaks for kids in France:
1- Summer holiday (Les grandes vacances). July to September.
2- All Saints holiday (Vacances de la Toussaint). October and November.
3 – Christmas holiday (Vacances de Noël). December and January.
4- Winter holiday (Vacances d’hiver). February and March. The exact date depends on the locations school holiday zone.
5- Spring Break (Vacances de Printemps). April. This school holidays also depends on locations school holiday zone.
The Three School Zones in France have been created because of the logistics. In order to avoid traffic jams and overcrowded popular tourist destinations. If you want to find out the exact dates of school breaks in France, you can use the government site here. If you want to find out what French regions belong to which zone, check here.
I hope you agree on how useful it is to know the days off, school holidays, French celebrations important for the French. I hope you liked this little list I created for us. And I hope that if you know other important French holidays, celebrations etc, you will share with me. Thank you!
All images and photos in this post come from pixabay.com. Thank you.