What are the public holidays in France?

What are the public holidays in France?

by Louise

Updated November 7, 2022

Whether you are traveling to France, planning to move there or are already living in this beautiful country, it’s a good idea to look up public holidays in France. 

France has 11 public holidays, jours fériés in French. Generally, employees from the public sector have the day off and public places have limited opening times. Les jours fériés are always good days to spend some time with your friends and family, go to a restaurant or the museum.

If the public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, French people will take this as an excuse to faire le pont (literally, make the bridge). It means that the day between the jour férié and the weekend (Monday or Friday) will be off as well, giving many a four-day weekend! Doesn’t French life sound amazing?

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New Year’s Day

Date: January 1st

Name: Jour de l’an, aslo named Nouvel an.

This day became a holiday in 1810 during the 1st Empire period. It celebrates the new year to come. And let’s be honest, many of us are glad to have a day off after the festivities of December 31st.

Easter Monday

Date: Monday after Easter

Name: Le lundi de Pâques

This public holiday is always on a Monday – it’s in the name afterall! It’s the day that comes just after Easter Sunday, a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in Christian religions. It’s the first of three French public holidays related to Easter, besides Easter itself. We’ll talk about the second and third Easter-related holidays later on. 

Labor Day

Date: May 1st

Name: la Fête du Travail, also simply referred to as le 1er mai

This day was made a public holiday in 1919, when the eight-hour workday was ratified. 

Le 1er mai is the first of many public holidays in May in France. Many people are ecstatic when this holiday falls on a Thursday or Tuesday because it’s a chance to get many ponts!

This day can also be called la fête du Muguet. Muguet is Lilly of the Valley flowers in English. It is tradition to buy muguet on this day and to offer a sprig as a gesture of friendship and luck. 

Victory in Europe Day

Date: May 8th

Name: la fête de la Victoire

This day commemorates the surrender of Germany and the end of World War II in 1945. French citizens celebrate their freedom while mourning the effects of the war and the Nazi occupation.

On this day, there are patriotic parades and church services.

Ascension Day

Date: 39 days after Easter

Name: l’Ascension

This is the second public holiday related to Easter. It marks the day Jesus Christ ascended to heaven after his crucifixion and resurrection.

Whit Monday

Date: the 7th Monday after Easter

Name: le lundi de Pentecôte

This is the third and last public holiday related to Easter in France. This day is to remember the moment the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles. In 2004, it also became the Journée de la solidarité (Solidarity Day). Employees on this day are working unpaid to help fund actions to help the elderly. 

It’s not mandatory but most companies recognize this day. 

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Bastille Day

Date: July 14th 

Name: la fête nationale française (French National Day), simply referred to as le 14 juillet

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the French prison called, you guessed it, la Bastille. This was an event that played a big part in the start of the French Revolution. On this day, there are typically celebrations everywhere in France from tiny villages to major cities, with parties, fireworks and parades. The largest and most famous of them takes place along the Champs-Elysées in Paris.

Assumption Day

Date: August 15th

Name: L’assomption de Marie

While August 15th is a public holiday in France for all, this jour férié comes from the Catholic tradition. Assumption Day commemorates the rise of Mary’s body and soul to heaven, instead of dying. 

Catholics are expected to attend mass on this day, but everyone will celebrate this day off in many ways.

During Napoleon’s reign, he decided this day would also be a good day to celebrate his birthday.

All Saint’s Day

Date: November 1st

Name: La Toussaint

Every year on November 1st, the French people honor the memory of deceased relatives. Families usually get together for the day and visit cemeteries, bringing flowers that are a symbol of remembering loved ones: chrysanthemums.

Armistice Day

Date: November 11th

Name: L’Armistice

The 11th of November is also a public holiday in France. It is a day of remembrance for the soldiers and citizens who died in World War I and other conflicts. Memorial parades are held and wreaths are laid at monuments. It’s on this day that the French President lays a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Christmas Day

Date: December 25th

Name: le jour de Noël

I think the name of this public holiday is pretty self-explanatory. We get one more day to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, eating our hearts out! Do yourself a favor and google “Bûche de Noël” to have a look at this wonderful pâtisserie!

To sum up

There you go, eleven French public holidays explained. You might want to watch out for them when you are booking a holiday in France. It would be a shame to get there and have all the shops closed because it is Easter Monday. But on the other hand, you might be able to take part in many celebrations on Assumption Day or Bastille Day.

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Louise is a French teacher who lives in the UK. She is a keen traveller (she lived in Europe, the United States and Australia) and loves meeting people from all over the world. She is also passionate about how learning a new language opens doors to so many different cultures, and this is what she wants to share with her students. She comes from Burgundy-Franche-Comté, a region in the East of France, and loves everything there is about it, from the Macvin to the cancoillotte!

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