The French really know how to party and how to celebrate life with many festivals and events held every year in the areas of music, sport and fashion.
There are many holidays that are celebrated by the French every year that are unheard of in other parts of the world. This can be important information if planning on visiting the country during one of these holidays because banks and stores often close for the celebrations.
Fall in France brings three major holidays – All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Armistice Day. All Saints Day is celebrated the day after Halloween on November 1. This holiday is called Toussaint by locals and is the day when all Roman Catholic Saints are recognized. The day is marked by lighting candles in cemeteries and marking graves with chrysanthemums. The following day is All Souls Day, known as Le Jour Des Morts. Churches are draped in black, and there are many prayers and songs sung for the dead. Schools in France are often closed for two weeks during this time period to mark the celebrations. Armistice Day is on November 11 to mark the end of WWI and is comparable to Veteran’s Day.
Winter brings Christmas Day (Noel), St. Stephen’s Day (Saint Etienne) celebrated only in Alsace and Monselle, and New Year’s Day (Premier de l’an). Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are celebrated on the same days in comparable ways to celebrations in the United States. St. Stephen’s Day is on December 26 and often banks, cafes, and stores in the celebrating area are closed for business. There are special church services often attended in the region in honor of St. Stephen on this day.
Spring brings the majority of French holidays including Good Friday (Vendredi Saint), Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques), May Day (Fête du Travail), Victory in Europe Day (Victore 1945), Ascension Day, and Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte). Good Friday is celebrated the Friday before Easter and Easter Monday is celebrated the day after Easter. May Day is on May 1 and is a festival bringing in Spring. Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on May 8 to mark the end of hostilities in Europe after WWII. Ascension is a holiday that’s date moves depending on the year. It is always celebrated on a Thursday 39 days after Easter which is also a moving holiday. Whit Monday is celebrated the Monday after Pentecost.
In the Summer, the French celebrate two major holidays – Bastille Day (14 Juillet – Fête Nationale) on July 14 and Assumption of Mary (Assomption) on August 15. Bastille Day marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress and prison in 1789. This date is seen as the uprising of the modern people without an absolute monarchy in France. The Assumption of Mary celebrates the belief that the spirit and body of the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. This holiday holds special significance for churches and is marked by special religious services on this day. The Assumption celebration is also marked by village festivals, sporting events, parades, and communal meals.
The French have many different days and ways to celebrate various national holidays. Some of these holidays overlap with days often observed in the West, such as Christmas or Easter, while others are unique to France, such as Bastille Day.