What Holidays Are Celebrated in France?

holidays-celebrated-france Credit: Dyanmosquito/CC-BY-SA 2.0

France celebrates 11 national holidays: New Year's Day (January 1), Easter Monday (day varies), Labor Day (May 1), WWII Victory Day (May 8), Bastille Day (July 14), Ascension Thursday (day varies), Pentecost (day varies), Assumption of Mary (August 15), All Saints' Day (November 1), Armistice Day (November 11) and Christmas (December 25). In addition, France celebrates a number of nonpublic holidays, such as the Epiphany, Valentine's Day, the first of April, Mother's Day and Halloween.

France's public holidays are called "jours fériés" and many public employees have the day off from work. When the day is on a Tuesday or Thursday, the French will take the Monday or Friday off to create a 4-day weekend.

Each holiday has its own set of meanings and traditions. For example:

  • Bastille Day, or Fête Nationale, remembers the beginning of the Revolution, when Parisians stormed the Bastille prison and liberated the prisoners. It is celebrated with fireworks and parades.
  • All Saints' Day, or La Toussaint, is a time for families to remember loved ones who have died. People take chrysanthemums to the cemetery on this day.
  • Armistice Day remembers the Armistice of 1918. Parades are held throughout the country in memory of those who died in the two World Wars.
  • April 1, or Le Poisson d'Avril, is not a public holiday, but it is still celebrated by many French as a day to play practical jokes. One popular joke is to tape a paper fish (poisson) unknowingly on the backs of others.

In addition to holidays, by French law every citizen is given five weeks vacation. Many people choose to take the time off in July or August.