When in France, party like the French do! Whether you’re preparing to study abroad or you just want to bring a little piece of France into your home, French tutor Carol Beth L.‘s guide to French holidays this spring and summer will give you something to celebrate…
French holidays share some similarities with American holidays, but they aren’t all exactly the same – nor do they occur at the same time. If you’re looking for some fun French festivities, here are a few spring and summer holidays to celebrate.
1) Heure d’été – Daylight Savings Time
Daylight savings time isn’t really a holiday, but it is something to which everyone in France must pay attention, just as we do in the United States. France’s daylight savings time change also occurs on a Sunday, but not the same Sunday as in the United States. Usually, we Americans turn our clocks forward about a week before the French do. As a result, for about a week every spring, the time difference between the two countries diminishes from eight hours to seven.
2) Pâques – Easter
Easter is traditionally a religious holiday which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Though France – like the United States – has gradually become more diverse and secular over the years, France is traditionally a Catholic country. Even after many French Revolutionaries criticized the Catholic Church for corruption at the end of the 18th century, Napoleon brought it back in the early 1800s. In 1980, 80% of the French population identified as Catholic.
Today, many statistics put the number at a similar percentage, but the number who actually go to church has decreased and religious diversity, as well as the number of religiously-unaffiliated people, is rising. Even so, just as in the US where many Americans may celebrate Christmas and Easter without attending church, many French do the same.
3) La Fête de l’Ascension – Ascension Day
La Fête de l’Ascension (Ascension Day) is also a traditionally Christian holiday, but in France, it is also a public holiday. It celebrates the day Jesus ascended to heaven, forty days after rising from the dead. Like Easter, its roots (naturally) come from France’s Catholic past. Regardless of religious affiliation, however, most French people appreciate the day off!
4) La Fête du Travail – Labor Day
Labor Day in the United States doesn’t come until September. In France, however, it occurs in May, the same month we celebrate Memorial Day. But while we celebrate Memorial Day towards the end of the month, the French celebrate Labor Day at the beginning – on May 1st.
5) La Fête Nationale – Bastille Day
We celebrate our independence day on the 4th of July. The French celebrate theirs 10 days later on the 14th of July, better known as Bastille Day. On that day in 1789, French revolutionaries, mostly from French society’s lower classes, stormed the Bastille – a fortress and prison in Paris. For revolutionaries, it stood for the nobility and clergy’s hypocrisy and corruption, as the French clergy and nobility strongly influenced government of the day.
Although many French were inspired by America’s revolution, their revolution’s bloodiness shocked many Americans and other Europeans. Still, it set France on a zig-zag course between monarchy and representative government, finally ending with the forced abdication of its last king, Charles Philip I, in 1848. Due to a few additional interruptions stemming from wars with (and invasions from) neighboring countries, France is now in its 5th republic, which began with President Charles de Gaulle following World War II.
If you’re studying French in the US, look out for opportunities to celebrate with the French community in your area, especially on Bastille Day. This tends to be a favorite celebration for French and francophiles abroad.
Discover more about French language and culture when you study with a French tutor. Tutors are available to work with you online via Skype or locally depending on your location. Find your French tutor today!
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photos by Jim Nix, jamieanne, Jean-Pierre, anw, and Yann Caradec