Holidays in France – Colorful and Unusual
France is a country where people love and know how to have fun. Therefore, the French have a lot of holidays. There are official ones, and there are folk ones. But both of them have been celebrated on a grand scale for several centuries. Today, migrants from a dozen countries of the world live in France. Their traditions and holidays are also firmly rooted in the state, adding another reason for the French to have fun. Most of the French holidays are familiar to us – Christmas and New Year, Easter, Mother’s Day. And a number of others – the Feast of Flowers or the Feast of Young Wine – are puzzling. Far from all holidays, the French have a day off, but this does not mean that they skip some holidays and do not celebrate them in any way.
In France, there are several dozen official public holidays. All of them are of great importance in the life of the French, the whole country, including high-ranking officials, takes part in them. Most of the official holidays are days off in the country. On these dates, large-scale festivities, rallies and parades take place in France. The congratulations of members of the country’s government are broadcast on TV.
A number of French citizens consider Christmas the main and favorite holiday in the country. Since most of the French are Catholics, they celebrate Christmas on December 25th.
Residents of France decorate their homes, decorate Christmas trees, buy gifts. Preparations for the holiday begin on December 6, on the day of St. Nicholas.
IT IS INTERESTING! For the first time, a Christmas tree was decorated in France in the 14th century. It happened in Alsace. For several centuries, the spruce was decorated with paper flowers, ribbons and apples. But in 1858 the fruit harvest was poor, so the tree was decorated with glass balls. The tradition has taken root, today no one hangs fruit on the spruce.
All French children are waiting for gifts from the Frankish Santa Claus. It is noteworthy that in different provinces Santa Claus is called and looks different:
- in Paris it is Pere Noel and his clothes resemble those of Santa Claus;
- in the Franche-Comté region, Aunt Aria in peasant clothes delivers gifts;
- in Burgundy – Peer Janvier, which translates as Grandfather January.
On Christmas night, all religious French go to church and cathedral services. After it comes the time for a festive dinner, which is called Reveillon. The name comes from the French réveiller, which means “wake up”. Reveillon symbolizes the rebirth of Christ.
The festive table is always beautifully decorated and literally full of national dishes. There is soup with sage, vegetables, different types of fish, goose liver. For dessert, La bûche de Noël is traditionally prepared – a chocolate roll in the form of a log.
The log is another symbol of Christmas. In the Middle Ages, there was a tradition – the French on the eve of the holiday burned a log, and the remaining ashes were collected in a bag and kept all year long, believing that it protects the house from evil spirits. In many regions this tradition has disappeared, but in Normandy a log is burned every Christmas. In the morning, children find sweets in his place. In Brittany, the log is not burned, it is tied with an elegant bow, sprinkled with salt and placed on the threshold, after which they leave for the Christmas service.
The favorite holiday in France is celebrated on a grand scale and fun. New Year’s Eve is called Saint Sylvester’s Day. The first day of the year is an official holiday.
It is noteworthy that only in 1564 did the French begin to count the New Year from January 1. Prior to this, the countdown was from March 1.
In the New Year in France, it is customary to gather around a large festive table. It should contain foie gras and champagne, and the rest of the dishes depend on the region – oysters, shrimp, snails, salmon. New Year is celebrated anywhere – at home, at a party, in some club. Unlike Christmas, this holiday is not usually held in a narrow family circle.
IT IS INTERESTING! On New Year’s Eve, the French kiss under the mistletoe. It used to be that such a kiss means a quick wedding, but today it is more of a ritual for happiness and good luck.
Exactly at 20:00, the French gather at the TV, because they begin to show the New Year’s greetings of the President of the country. This tradition has existed in France since 1960. After midnight, the French go out into the streets and gather in crowds. They sing songs, make noise, fireworks, car horns are heard everywhere. The inhabitants of France believe that this is how they scare away evil spirits.
New Year’s gifts are called etrennes. In ancient times, the Romans exchanged sprigs of verbena in the first days of the year, then they were replaced by figs and honey. Today, on New Year’s Eve, it is customary to give envelopes with money. Moreover, they are given not to relatives, but to people of different professions with whom the French often contact – nannies, concierges, cleaners.
New Year holidays in France last until January 6th.
The French celebrate the National Day on July 14th. On this day in 1789, during the revolution, the most famous French prison, the Bastille, was taken and destroyed. A year after this event, large-scale festivities took place on the Champ de Mars by decree of the king. Then the holiday was not celebrated for a long time, until in 1880 a decree was signed that July 14 would be celebrated as the main national holiday of the country. It is noteworthy that the debate over this date did not subside for a long time, so there is not a single historical reference to the taking of the Bastille in the text of the law. Therefore, despite the fact that the French themselves call the holiday Bastille Day, this name is not official. On July 14, large-scale celebrations are held throughout the country.
The main events unfold in Paris on the Champs Elysees. It hosts the oldest and largest parade in Europe. French and foreign officials take part in it. Donald Trump and his wife attended in 2017. The parade starts at 10 am. All troops and all military equipment of France take part in it. Also, the official program of events includes the Firemen’s Ball (a dance show organized by French firefighters) and the Grand Ball in the Tuileries Garden.
In the evening, fireworks are launched near the Eiffel Tower. Celebrations are also held in other French cities. Various parades and events are also organized there, and fireworks rumble in the evening.
International Women’s Day
If on the eighth of March it is customary to give flowers and gifts to all women, then in France there is no such tradition, although the holiday is officially enshrined in law. Of course, if someone wants to please women with flowers on this day, then this is not forbidden. It’s just that in France, International Women’s Day is not a holiday of spring and beauty, but a day of women’s struggle for their rights.
On March 8, French cities host thematic exhibitions, parades, forums and seminars dedicated to the problem of female infringement in the modern world.
IT IS INTERESTING! Not all French politicians approve of this holiday. Nicolas Sarkozy spoke caustically about him: “Women’s day – does this mean that all other days of the year are men’s? It’s a very strange system, honestly.”
In France, a dozen national holidays are celebrated – those days when there is no official holiday in the country. But, despite this, the French arrange festive dinners, exchange gifts, and themed events are held in the cities – exhibitions, concerts, festivals.
Since 1950, all mothers and grandmothers in France have been congratulated on the last May Sunday. There are cases when another holiday falls on this date – Pentecost, then Mother’s Day is transferred to the first Sunday of June. The holiday has a rich history. Even in ancient times, the ancient Greeks held celebrations in honor of the goddess Rhea, the mother of all gods. This tradition was adopted by the Romans, the holiday was celebrated until the 4th century. Then for many years they forgot about it, but in 1806 Napoleon signed a decree on the establishment of a holiday for all mothers. After that, the holiday was forgotten and revived again until 1950, when it was included in the list of official holidays in France, and now it is celebrated every year.
For several decades, the French did not perceive this holiday – some considered it sexist, others – commercial, created so that merchants could get rich. But today, French citizens are happy to congratulate their mothers. As gifts, cards, flowers and sweets are usually given.
The holiday, when all fathers are congratulated, falls on the third Sunday of June. It has been celebrated in France since 1952, but it is not official.
On this day, family dinners are held in France, where children give gifts to their fathers. Usually these are some small nice trinkets – lighters, key rings, postcards.
St. Valentine’s Day
In the most romantic country in the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with pleasure. Like all over the world, it is celebrated on February 14th.
The French love this holiday. Shops and shopping centers decorate their windows with hearts, it is difficult to find a free place in cafes and restaurants, romantic music sounds everywhere.
The lovers exchange gifts:
- figurines of Cupid;
- heart-shaped toys
It was in France that valentines appeared for the first time in the world – postcards in the form of a heart with love poems.
Beaujolais Nouveau (New Wine Festival)
The French are lovers of good wine, this drink is drunk here with almost every meal. The festival of young wine is celebrated in the country every year on the third Thursday of November. In autumn, in the small region of Beaujolais, the first grapes ripen – a variety of black-colored gamay with white flesh.
Festivities begin in the town of Bozho the evening before. Large tents are set up there, where dinner, costume shows and competitions take place. Then all the inhabitants go with burning torches to the main square of the city, where barrels of wine are already standing.
Exactly at midnight, after the last stroke of the bell in the church, the corks are removed from the barrels. Everyone can taste young wine. They drink and walk in the square until dawn. And in the morning you can buy wine in every wine shop in the city. Festive events (dances, performances, performances) take place until the end of the week.
Flower Festival (Mimosa Festival)
The holiday is reminiscent of Maslenitsa. This is a kind of farewell to winter, which is celebrated in mid-February. Around this time, mimosa blooms in France, which means the imminent onset of spring. Everything is decorated with flowers everywhere, festive events are held – parades, costume shows, performances and carnivals.
The main event of the holiday is the Flower Parade. Large platforms, decorated with hundreds of flowers, move along the streets. They are ridden by beautiful girls in floral costumes. According to tradition, the parade is always opened by a girl dressed as a mimosa, she is considered the queen of the event.
The French are Christians, they profess Catholicism. Most of them regularly attend church, go to services and celebrate church holidays. There are a lot of them in France, but one of the most important and beloved is Easter, which is celebrated by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
The French celebrate the main religious holiday on the first Sunday after the spring full moon. This date falls on the period from March 23 to April 23.
On this festive spring day, the French observe many traditions:
- Chocolate eggs are a holiday symbol in France. In the Middle Ages, believing Christians were forbidden to eat eggs until the end of the fast, they were kept until it ended, and then decorated. In the 18th century, eggs were first emptied in Europe and the shells filled with chocolate. Since then, chocolate eggs have been the main treat for Easter among Europeans.
- “Hunt for eggs” is a favorite game of French children. Parents hide eggs all over the house, and kids have to find them and eat them.
- “The bells have flown” is an obligatory phrase for Easter, a signal to children that it is time to look for eggs. On the Thursday of Holy Week, church bells, which have been ringing all week, stop ringing. Bell ringing will start again only on Sunday. To explain such a break to children, a legend was invented that the bells fly to Rome to bring chocolate eggs from there.
All the French gather at the Easter table. It traditionally features lamb served with beans.
All Saints’ Day
On November 1, it is customary in France to remember all the dead. On this day, the French visit churches and churches, go to cemeteries. Services are held in churches.
On the official level in France on November 1, all the victims of the Second World War are remembered, flowers are laid at the monuments.
This format of the event in France was established not so long ago. Even at the beginning of the last century, this day wore a shade of mysticism. People performed rituals, cajoled evil spirits, performed rituals. Until now, in some provinces of France, festivities are held on November 1, where all those present dress up in costumes of evil spirits. In Paris, lovers of fun in the form of evil spirits gather in special cafes and restaurants, which close on November 1 for this event.
France is a country with a long history, which during its existence has participated in hundreds of wars and battles. Not all of them were successful, but today the state is a strong and independent power. Military holidays in France are celebrated throughout the country, but most often without pomp. For the French, the date of any battle or victory is an occasion to honor the memory of all the fallen, and not to have fun.
As in the rest of Europe, in France the victory over the Nazis in World War II is celebrated on May 8th. This day has been an official holiday in the country since 1981. Unlike France the holiday is celebrated modestly. The French were unable to provide proper resistance to the Germans, the invaders quickly occupied the north of the country, and established a puppet regime in the south (this is when the country is officially independent, but in fact is under the rule of a foreign state). Therefore, no noisy festive events take place in France on Victory Day, there are no grandiose parades and bright fireworks.
The main events take place in Paris, the president of the country takes part in them.
After reviewing the troops on Charles de Gaulle Square, the head of state lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The president always has a cornflower in his buttonhole – a symbol of memory for all the fallen soldiers. Next is a small military parade. This event ends.
In other cities of France, they also lay flowers at monuments, hold rallies and parades.
The official end of the First World War in France is celebrated on November 11. Commemorative ceremonies and rallies are held in the cities, residents lay flowers at the eternal flame or monuments to soldiers. The solemn official ceremony takes place in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe. The event is traditionally attended by the country’s president and members of parliament.
The solemn part begins at exactly 11:00 with a moment of silence – it was at this time in 1918 that all radio stations in the world announced the end of the war.
After a moment of silence, officials lay flowers at the monument, followed by a military parade. Official events end with the release of doves into the sky. On the streets of Paris and other French cities there are concerts, performances, war films are shown. Fireworks are launched in the evening.
French holiday calendar in 2022
Dozens of holidays are celebrated in France, it is difficult to tell in detail about each of them. Below is a list of French holidays for each month.
- January 1 – New Year.
- January 6 – Epiphany, on this day the French make donations, help those in need, and in the evening they gather at the festive table.
- February 2 – Meeting of the Lord.
- February 10 – Flower Day.
- 11 February – Carnival in Nice, one of the largest and oldest in the world, lasts two weeks, includes dances, musical shows, theatrical performances and parades.
- February 12 – Lemon Festival in Menton, a harvest festival where various figures are made from citrus fruits.
- February 14 is Valentine’s Day.
- March 6 is the National Day of Grandmothers, on this holiday all the grandmothers and women of France over 55 receive gifts and congratulations.
- March 8 is International Women’s Day.
- March 20 is the International Day of Francophonie, a holiday for all people who are not indifferent to the French language; various events, lectures and exhibitions are held in the country.
- April 1 is April Fool’s Day, a holiday when all the French joke and play each other.
- April 17 – Easter.
- May 1 is Labor Day.
- May 6 – Parrot Festival, takes place in the Haute-Garonne, where 40 archers dressed in medieval clothes try to hit a foam parrot from a crossbow, which is at a height of 45 meters.
- May 8 – Victory Day.
- May 17 – Cannes Film Festival.
- May 26 – Ascension of the Lord, an official holiday in France, when some of the French go to church services or go to nature to have a picnic.
- May 29 – Mother’s Day.
- June 5 – Pentecost, on this day in France it is customary to decorate their homes with flowers, plants and tree branches.
- June 19 is Father’s Day.
- June 20 – Cannes Lions Festival, a prestigious advertising festival known throughout the world.
- June 21 is Music Day, a holiday during which music concerts and events are held throughout the country, street musicians play.
- July 14 – National holiday (Bastille Day).
- August 15 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on this day the French visit churches and take part in services.
- September 23 is Gastronomy Day, on this day France hosts events and master classes dedicated to the country’s national cuisine.
- September 25 is National Harki Appreciation Day, a holiday dedicated to Algerian Muslims.
- October 31 – Halloween.
- November 1 is All Saints Day.
- November 11 is Armistice Day.
- November 17 – New Wine Festival.
- December 25 – Christmas.
- December 26 is the Day of the First Martyr Stephen.