Pentecost And Whit Monday In France

One of the most important feasts in the Christian liturgical year is the Pentecost. It is celebrated 7 weeks (50 days to be exact) following Easter and falls on the tenth day following Ascension Thursday. Pentecost is also called by other names, such as "Whitsun", "Whit Sunday", or ""Whitsuntide", depending on which country one is in.

In France, Pentecost (Pentecôte in French) is one of religious holidays, which is observed with people attending special church services. Some are baptized (or baptized anew) in churches during this day. French Christians observe on this day the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the followers of Jesus Christ. A tradition followed during the Divine Service is the blowing of trumpets, symbolizing the sound of the wind that accompanied the Holy Spirit's descent.

Because Pentecôte always falls on a Sunday, most people in France celebrate the holiday like any other Sunday. Some families just stay at home while others go to parks. In any case, family members and friends get together on this day and have special meals.

And as on other Sundays, it is generally quiet in public places in France during Pentecost. Banks, shops, stores, and other businesses are closed on this day. Even those museums that are usually open on a Sunday may likewise be closed on this day.

The day after Pentecost, France celebrates another public holiday - Lundi de Pentecôte (Pentecost Monday or Whit Monday). This day, however, is not celebrated by the French with the same religious significance as they do the Pentecost. Most people quietly observe the holiday with families and close friends.

Parks and countrysides in France are usually full of people on Whit Monday; they can be seen here enjoying a picnic lunch. In some villages and towns, cultural and sporting events are held on this day.

Actually, France observed Whit Monday as a public holiday until 2005, when it was replaced by another holiday. This was the French government's way of raising funds to financially support the elderly and those with disabilities, a move conceived after the tragic death of some 15,000 elderly people caused by a heat wave in the summer of 2003.

The French government's cancellation of Whit Monday as a public holiday meant that workers rendered services on this day with no pay. Their wages were instead collected and used to assist people with disabilities and the elderly. Workers, however, began to air their grievances against this move and held a series of demonstrations to force the government to repeal it. Eventually, Whit Monday was reinstated as a public holiday in 2008, with the government introducing other measures in order to keep its earlier commitment as explained.

Again like during the Pentecost or any other public holiday, Whit Monday in France means a day when public life practically comes to a halt. Almost all businesses, shops, and stores are closed. Some stores in Paris as well as in airports and at railway stations may be open though. Public transport service schedules may also be irregular or different on this day.


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