What Are All the Public Holidays in France?

Rumor has it that the French get a lot of days off per year. (And that’s not including the guaranteed five weeks of paid vacation they get off.)

In the United States, we have 10 federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Unfortunately, unless you work for the government, it’s more likely that you get eight or nine days off.

We counted up how many public (or national) holidays France has and… it’s not that much more. The French have 11 federal holidays per year. How we perceive France’s number of public holidays as being so high could come from the fact that in France the public holidays are guaranteed, while in the U.S. only federal government employees are guaranteed to have federal holidays off.

Here are the 11 French holidays, when they are, and why each one is celebrated.

1. New Year’s Day / Jour de l’an

Date: January 1 (a Tuesday, in 2019)
Purpose: celebrating the New Year, and overcoming a hangover

2. Easter Monday / Lundi de Pâques

Date: the Monday after Easter (Monday, April 22, in 2019)
Purpose: to continue celebrating Easter, for some people in a solemn way and for others in a happy way.

3. Labor Day / Fête du Travail

Date: May 1 (a Wednesday, in 2019)
Purpose: to celebrate workers’ rights and the eight-hour work day

4. VE Day / Victoire des alliés (Fête de la Victoire 1945)

Date: May 8 (a Wednesday, in 2019)
Purpose: to remember the day when the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces

5. Ascension Day / Jeudi de l’Ascension

Date: the 40th day after Easter, which is always a Thursday (Thursday, May 30, in 2019)
Purpose: to mark the day that Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection, according to the Christian faith

6. Whit Monday / Lundi de Pentecôte

Date: the Monday after Pentecost which is on seventh Sunday after Easter (Monday, June 10, in 2019)
Purpose: to remember the day the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles in the form of flames, according to the Christian faith. However, really in France, it’s a public holiday so the government can save money for programs for the elderly. (In 2018 the government saved 2.42 million euros.)

7. Bastille Day / Fête nationale (le 14 juillet)

Date: July 14 (a Sunday, in 2019)
Purpose: It is, believe it or not, not France’s Independence Day. Bastille Day (or le 14 juillet, as the French call it) is to remember the anniversary of the feast on the anniversary of July 14, 1789. (Read about that here.)

8. Assumption Day / Assomption

Date: August 15 (a Thursday, in 2019)
Purpose: to celebrate the day that the Virgin Mary’s body and spirit were assumed to heaven, according to the Catholic faith

9. All Saints’ Day / La Toussaint

Date: November 1 (a Friday, in 2019)
Purpose: to honor deceased relatives and all the saints

10. Armistice Day / Armistice 1918

Date: November 11 (a Monday, in 2019)
Purpose: to remember the armistice signed between the Allies and the Germans to end World War I

11. Christmas / Noël

Date: December 25 (a Wednesday, in 2019)
Purpose: to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and to be with family, open presents, and recover from le réveillon

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