French Holidays And What France Is Like During A Holiday
The eleven French holidays consist of eight that are celebrated on fixed dates and three observed on movable dates. The latter are Christian feasts or holy days observed on dates in relation to when Easter (itself a movable feast) falls. These movable holidays are Lundi de Pâques (Easter Monday; the day after Easter), Ascension (Ascension Day; the Thursday forty days from Easter), and Lundi de Pentecôte (Whit Monday; the day after Pentecost, which is observed on the Sunday fifty days from Easter).
The eight fixed-dated French holidays are Le Jour de l'An (New Year's Day, January 1), Fête du Travail (Labor Day, May 1), Victoire 1945 (Victory in Europe Day, May 8), Fête Nationale (Bastille Day, July 14), Assomption de Marie (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15), Toussaint (All Saints' Day, November 1), Armistice 1918 (Armistice Day, November 11), and Noël (Christmas Day, December 25).
In addition to these, there are lengthy school holidays in France which are divided into five sets and distributed in three zones. The five sets of school holidays are Toussaint break (twelve-day break beginning around the latter part of the third week of October, within which All Saints' Day falls), Noel-Le Jour de l'An break (fifteen-day Christmas/New Year holiday break, from December 20 to January 4), Hiver break (fifteen-day break beginning in February, when winter is at its peak), Printemps break (fifteen-day spring break beginning usually on Good Friday), and L'ete holidays (two-month summer vacation from beginning of July to beginning of September).
The school holidays (particularly the hiver and printemps breaks), in turn, are staggered into fifteen-day periods depending on where a school is located. For this purpose, the French Ministry of Education has divided the country into three zones.
In the month of May alone, a holiday is celebrated almost every week. When France is on a holiday, everything practically comes to a halt. This is because the French take their holidays very seriously. A holiday in France is not something that is turned into a commercial opportunity. For example, businesses, stores, shops, museums, post offices, and banks are closed during a holiday.
During lengthy holidays, such as those mentioned earlier, these business establishments may be closed for as long as the holiday is in effect. Those planning to visit France for a vacation are always advised to be aware of the dates of the French holidays in order to avoid any unexpected difficulties. They should make advance arrangements with hotels, restaurants, or museums to know whether these will be open or not during a particular holiday.
During or around a public holiday, train stations and roads in major cities in France become very busy. The situation is compounded by the tradition of service unions (those working in railroad and public transport companies) going on strike during a holiday. These certainly cause traffic disruptions and public transport service schedules become irregular as a result of such disruptions.
The months of July and August, in which the long summer vacation falls, is a period not generally recommended for those wishing to visit France. French law allows every citizen to have a five-week vacation, so almost everyone use the summer period for this. The whole of France is practically on every road, railroad, seaway, and airway during this period.