Celebrating several national holidays commemorating religious and national landmarks, France has over 11 public holidays with some religious ones too thrown in the mix. Each festival has something unique to offer bringing excitement and colour to the public arena of the country. Tourist attendance during these festivals is at an all-time high as the country gets lit up with the festive spirit and excitement of the locals and visitors alike who get to peek into the cultural diversity of the country through these celebrations.
New Year’s Day: Also known as the Jour des Etrennes in France, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with great gusto and festivity in whole of the country. People bid goodbye to the year gone by and celebrate the upcoming year with music, dance, parades and festivities.
Easter Weekend: Observed mainly in the Alsace and Moselle regions of France, Easter weekend commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday, also known as the Black or Easter Friday marks the start of the holy week with the day spent in mourning for the crucifixion. It is on the eve of Easter Sunday that the celebrations kick up celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. There are no fixed dates for these celebrations according to the Gregorian calendars, thus making it a moveable festival whose date is decided by the Church. Right after the Easter Sunday comes the holiday of Easter Monday, which is also known as ‘Renewal Monday’ or ‘Easter Monday’ in different parts of the world. Celebrations on this day include egg rolling competitions, dosing people with holy water and egg hunts making it a great day to have some fun with your families.
May Day: Traditionally known as the Fete du Travail, this day is celebrated as a celebration of workers’ rights all over the world. On this day, trade unions stage protests and seminars in large cities. Also known as the ‘Lily of the Valley Day’, people customarily exchange dog rose flowers with their loved ones as a continuation of the tradition of King Charles IX of France. It is said that he received a lily of the valley on this day as a lucky charm, later prompting him to offer the flower every year to the ladies of the court on the same day.
V-E Day: Also known as the Victory in Europe Day, this public holiday celebrated on 8 May marks the acceptance of Nazi Germany’s complete surrender by the Allies of the World War II, thus marking the end of the war in Europe. Ending Adolf Hitler’s rule, the day is celebrated with lots of pomp, parades, festivities and celebrations.
Ascension Day: Traditionally celebrated 39 days after Easter Sunday, the date for this Christian celebration changes every year. This holiday marks the ascension of Jesus to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection. Special prayer meetings are held in the churches. People spend time with their friends and family on the day.
Whit Monday: Also known as Pentecost Monday, this day is celebrated around 50 days after Easter. Getting its English name from the day of Whitsun that marks one of the three baptismal seasons, the name is generally attributed to the white garments that were formerly worn by the newly baptised. The day is spent quietly in the company of friends and family.
Bastille Day: This French national holiday celebrated on 14 July every year commemorates that event of French revolution when the Storming of the medieval fortress and prison of Bastille took place. Celebrations are held throughout the country of France with a special parade, considered to be the oldest and the largest regular military parade in Europe, takes place on the Champs-Elysees in Paris in front of the country president and other important French dignitaries. Many municipal level ceremonies are also held in many cities with a speech from the mayor and a wreath laying ceremony at the war memorial.
Assumption Day: The Assumption of the Mary Day, also known as Assumption Day, is the day when many Christians believe that Virgin Mary was bodily taken up to the heaven at the end of her earthly life. Celebrated on 15th August every year, the day is a major feast day. People celebrate her ascendance to the heaven with prayer meetings and celebrations all across the country. The da is a symbol of the promise made by Jesus to his enduring followers that they too will be received into heaven with welcome at the end of their lives.
All Saints Day: Celebrated on November 1 every year, this day commemorates all those who have attained beatific vision in Heaven, The next day is for all those who have departed but have not yet been purified and reached heaven. It is believed that there is a prayerful sprit between those in heaven and the living. On this day, people visit the graves of their loved ones and lay flowers in their remembrance. The day is also in the honour of all the saints, known as unknown.
Armistice Day: Commemorated every year at November 11, this day marks the armistice signed by the Allies of World War I with Germany at Compeigne, France. The day remembers the victims and soldiers who laid down their lives during the war. Solemn meetings are held throughout the country to honour all these brave hearts and their families who suffered in the aftermath of the war.
Christmas: Get into the festive spirit of Christmas with special celebrations that take place around this time in the whole of country. Prayer meetings are held to celebrate the birth of Lord Jesus. Special Christmas markets are organized where you can purchase arts and crafts at great prices. Sample some great local gastronomic fares that will blow your minds as well as your taste buds off. Every state and province has its own unique traditions and you are sure to have a ball experiencing them on your vacation.
Plan your trip to coincide with any of these celebrations and you are sure to add a unique element to your trip. There are also the popular art and movie festivals that take place in the country at regular intervals that can make your stay more enjoyable. Some of the popular ones are Cannes Film Festival, International Garden Festival, Wine harvest festival and several others.