Holidays in France

France has 11 public holidays. These days apply to the entire population. No one works, most businesses are closed, schools are closed, and shops are closed. If you are on holiday in France, it is nice to know when the shops are closed on certain days. Some of these days are Christian or Roman Catholic holidays. The French do not have Boxing Day as a public holiday, unlike other countries. France, on the other hand, has church holidays on which everyone has time off, while other countries do not. In addition to the church holidays, there are also civil holidays on which society is virtually at a standstill and everyone is free, for example 1 May: Labour Day and 11 November: the day on which the French commemorate the armistice of WWI "Armistice de la Grande Guerre". In France, more attention is paid to commemorating the First World War than the Second World War. This difference in attention varies from country to country and depends on the extent to which the pain and wounds inflicted by the enemies are felt by the population.

Holidays of France

  • January 1 (New Year's Day)
  • May 1 (Labor Day)
  • 8 May (Liberation Day)
  • Easter: 1st and 2nd Easter Day
  • Ascension day
  • Whitsun: 1st and 2nd Whitsun
  • 14 July (national holiday)
  • 15 August (Assumption Day)
  • 1 November (Toussaint: All Saints' Day)
  • 11 November (Armistice: end of the WW1)
  • Christmas: December 25 (Christmas Eve + Christmas)

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, 31/12 and 1/1

New Year's Eve is typically celebrated in France with family and friends over an extensive dinner with several courses. Afterwards or in between the courses, games are played, or television is watched. At 12 o'clock they toast to the new year. The French hardly ever set off fireworks, which is also forbidden in many cases.

1st of May: Labor Day

May 1st ,Labor Day, has been an official holiday in France since 1947. Just like most European countries, France also celebrates Labor Day. It is a tradition to offer each other a bouquet of lily of the valley (du muguet). According to tradition, this is said to bring good luck. Labor day is also the day on which employees make themselves heard and stand up for themselves. The parades can sometimes turn into demonstrations, in the hope that their wishes and demands will be listened to.

8th of May: Fête de la Victoire

The official end of the Second World War, which is the 8th of May, is celebrated in France with an official day off. On this day, military parades are organized and veterans lay wreaths at war memorials in the region. In Paris, the French President takes part in a parade that will be broadcast live on TV. But that's about it. The end of the Second World War is commemorated on a much smaller scale in France than in the Netherlands, for example. Shops are closed and the day often starts with a commemoration at the local war memorial which is usually located at the church, but if you compare this monument to the monument of the first world war, there are far fewer names on it. There are more names on the monument of the First World War, which is why the scars of the First World War are much deeper.

All holidays in France

  • 1 January – New Year's Day (public holiday)
  • 6 January – Three Kings Day
  • 14 February – Valentine's Day
  • 6 March - Fête de grand-mère
  • First Sunday of March – Grandmother's Day
  • 22 April – Good Friday
  • 24 & 25 April – Easter (public holiday)
  • 1 May – Labour Day (public holiday)
  • 8 May – Fête de la Victoire (Liberation Day) (public holiday)
  • 29 May – Europe Day
  • Every last Sunday of May - Mother's Day.
  • 12 & 13 June – Ascension Day
  • 19 June – Pentecost (public holiday)
  • 21 June – Fête de la Musique
  • 21 June– Father's Day
  • 14 July – Quatorze Juillet (public holiday)
  • 1 to 29 August – Ramadan
  • 15 August – Assumption of Mary (public day)
  • 30 August - 2 September – Id-al-Fitr (Eid al-Fitr after Ramadan)
  • 1 November – All Saints' Day (public holiday)
  • 11 November – Armistice Day (public holiday)
  • 17 November – Day of the first Beaujolias (wine)
  • 6 December – Saint Nicholas
  • 24 December – Christmas Eve
  • 25 December – Christmas (public holiday)

14 February: St. Valentin

France also celebrates Valentine's Day, the day when romantic gifts are given and loved ones are treated to dinner.

21 June: Fête de la Musique

This music festival has existed in France for more than 40 years. It has become internationally known and is celebrated in more than 130 countries. Read more...

14 July: Quatorze Juillet

Quatorze Juillet is France's national holiday commemorating the start of the Revolution in 1789, the day on which the Bastille in Paris was stormed. Read more...

11 November: L’Armistice

During your holiday, you will see "Monuments aux morts" everywhere in every village and in every region.  These monuments are memorials that commemorate the war victims of the First World War. On  the 11th of November a memorial meeting is held, where the mayor is present in full regalia and with a sash. A military representation, the police commissioner and the local brass band are also present. Throughout the whole country there are military parades and in Paris there is a defilé. More young men fought during the First World War in the trenches in the north and east of France and died in battle than during the Second World War. The First World War is therefore also called the "Grand Guerre".

Fete nationale 1 quatorze juillet 14 juli Frankrijk vakantie feest bastide defile vuurwerk.jpg

General celebrations

  • February Carnival in nice – The Carnival celebration in Nice with a huge parade of spectacular floats is known throughout France.
  • May Cannes – During May, the world-famous film festival is held in Cannes.
  • 2nd weekend of September Jour de Patrimoine – On Cultural Heritage Day, museums and other exhibitions in France are open to the public free of charge and craft markets  are organized.
  • 31 October Halloween – This festivity is not celebrated  that hugely in France, for example shops are open as usual. There are dress-up parties and parades. Castles and other ancient buildings are decorated with ghosts, trolls, witches and zombies.

Religious holidays in France

  • January 6 Epiphany/ Three Kings Day – The children in France do not go round peoples' doors singing, but instead receive a cake known as "galette de rois". A figurine has been baked into one of the cakes. Whoever has the cake with the figurine is the king or queen and can put on a crown.
  • Good Friday – Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and is when the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ is commemorated. This day is only a day-off in Alsace and Moselle.
  • Easter –the resurrection of Jesus Christ is commemorated on the 1st and 2nd day of Easter. This is done in a familiar context with a dinner. Fish and chocolate bells are hidden in the garden for the children to find.
  • Ascension Day – This day commemorates the fact that Jesus Christ went back to heaven 40 days after Easter. This is a public holiday and so everyone has a day-off.
  • Whitsun/Pentecost – The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is commemorated on the 1st and 2nd day of Pentecost. On this day extra attention is given to the elderly.
  • 15 August Assumption Day – On this official holiday, everything is closed. Events, flea markets and fairs are organized everywhere.
  • November 1 All Saints' Day – On All Saints' Day, everything is closed and the deceased saints and loved ones are remembered. The French buy a lot of chrysanthemums and go to the cemetery to place them on the grave of the deceased. In some places, there are ceremonies to commemorate the fallen soldiers of both world wars.
  • December 25 Christmas – On the evening of December 24, dinner is served and gifts are given. On Christmas Day, many go to church. Boxing Day is not celebrated.
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