Bonne Fête des Mères! French Vocabulary for Mother’s Day

Here in the states, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May (psst that’s May 10 this year!), but did you know that in France Mother’s Day, known as la fête des mères, is celebrated either the last Sunday of May or the first Sunday in June? Despite the difference in timing, the French celebrate Mother’s Day in many of the same ways we do, but with a few uniquely French touches.

First things first, if you want to celebrate this holiday as the French do, you’ll need to know a bit of French vocabulary for Mother’s Day:

Bonne Fête des Mères!

 How to Say “Mom” in French

Formally, you may refer to your mother as ma mère, but in more familiar situations you will commonly hear the French call their mothers maman. This distinction is similar to the difference between mother and mom in English. In French, your mother can address you as mon fils if you are her son, or ma fille if you are her daughter.

You might also want to celebrate your grandmother, or grand-mère, when la fête des mères comes around. If you want to be less formal, you can address your grandma as grand-maman, gra-mère, or even mémé or mamé. If you have a stepmother, you can celebrate her as well on Mother’s Day. In French, you call your stepmother, ma belle-mère.

French Gifts for Mom

Just like in America, French moms love to start their special day with le petit déjeuner au lit, or breakfast in bed. You should also be sure to get a nice present, or un cadeau, for maman. Some popular gifts for maman include les fleurs (flowers), un collier (necklace), le chocolat (chocolate), les livres (books), and le parfum (perfume). Often, young children in France will make craft projects at school to bring to maman for la fête des mères. 

Finally, you can’t go wrong with a handmade carte de vœux, or greeting card, with a heartfelt message of love and gratitude for your mom. Don’t forget to write, “je t’aime“, which means, “I love you.”

In French families, it is traditional to present maman with a cake resembling a bouquet of flowers and to prepare a lovely diner for her and the whole family.

French Translation Practice for Mother’s Day

Now that you’ve studied a little bit of French vocabulary for Mother’s Day, see if you can translate this paragraph from French Etc.:

La fête des mères est fêtée une fois par an, le dernier dimanche de mai ou le premier dimanche de juin – ce n’est pas à la même date dans tous les pays – par tous les enfants des écoles. Dans toutes les classes, les travaux manuels vont bon train. On travaille secrètement ; qui, au collier de nouilles ; qui, au livre de recettes écrit à la main. Le matin du Jour J., on récite un compliment et on offre son cadeau fait amoureusement. Les plus grands lui offrent un plus grand cadeau, bien sûr. Et toute la journée, la maman est la reine. On lui fait tout, on la chouchoute, on la cajole, on lui prépare le dîner, etc.

(You can check your work here, or find a French tutor to help you continue your studies.)

Will you be celebrating Mother’s Day with the French this year? What are your family traditions? Share them with us in the comments below!

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