French Celebration Of L'Assomption De Marie

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated by Catholics throughout the world every year on August 15. The day is a celebration of the Catholic belief that the Virgin Mary ascended to Heaven body and soul at the end of her life here on earth.

France, a predominantly Catholic country, celebrates this day (L'Assomption de Marie in French) as one of its public holidays. Churches all over the country hold special celebrations during this day and many people attend church services. In rural areas, village festivals are held.

Activities here may include communal meals, parades, and some sports events. The festivals are attended by a lot of people, especially since L'Assomption de Marie falls within l'ete holidays (summer vacation), the longest of five school breaks in France.

An important place in France on this date is Lourdes, a small market town in southwest France near the country's border with Spain. The town is famous for the eighteen apparitions witnessed by a 14-year old girl named Marie-Bernarde Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle between February 11 and July 16 in 1858. The beautiful lady who appeared to Bernadette (the name by which the girl is known around the world) is believed to be the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On August 15 every year, special celebrations are held in Lourdes and many Catholics, not only in France but also from other countries, journey to this place.

Elsewhere in France, the environment is one of inactivity during this day. This is true during any of the public holidays in that country. The general quietness is brought about by the fact that businesses - stores, shops, banks, and even post offices - are closed on this day.

Except in areas frequented by tourists, cafes and restaurants may likewise be closed the day before, during, and the day after the holiday. This is especially so if August 15 happens to fall on a Thursday or a Tuesday. In such a case, France goes on "faire le pont" (long weekend); many companies are closed and their employees are allowed to take the period off. This, however, is not official and government offices and banks are not covered by the practice.

In the capital city of Paris, especially along major highways, some stores may be open on this day. Also, some shops and stores at railways stations and airports may be open to serve the needs of the public. Other local services may be unavailable during the holiday though.

During the celebration of L'Assomption de Marie, church events and parades happen almost everywhere in France, forcing public transport service schedules to be adjusted due to the disruption in traffic such activities is expected to cause.

Overall, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a major occasion in every village and town in France. In many places, the day takes equal importance as that of Easter or Christmas. After all, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been the main patron saint of France since 1638.


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