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6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Go To France In May: French Holidays Explained!

Don't go to France in May! French holidays explained

True story: It’s some random day in May. You’re newly arrived to France and the sun is shining so you decide to take a leisurely stroll and find a café to sit and watch the world go by. Too bad everything is closed and you have no idea why. Dazed, confused and annoyed, we went home and did a little research only to discover we were in the middle of one of 6 possible holidays in France that occur during the month of May which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that many things are closed. Here are the holidays and what to expect.

Why you may not want to come to France in May

Besides being the month of my birthday, May is also special because you can observe or celebrate up to 6 separate holidays. I don’t think any other month has as many separate holidays or celebrations as the month of May in France. If you have kids in school then you also get the extra special 2 week spring break where kids don’t go to school. 

I suppose all these holidays can be culturally interesting and great if you need a day off from work or school in France. However it can put the average tourist or unknowing and newly arrived French expat in a bit of a predicament.

What happens on French public holidays?

 Everything except crucial services come to a complete halt or have special modified hours. If you are in a big city like Paris, things may be open but you should always call or check websites for any tourist things you may want to do.

  • You might not be able to get around:

    • Buses and some trains run on a modified less frequent time schedule.
    • You can’t pick up or send packages: Post offices are closed.
  • You can’t go to the bank:

    • Banks are closed
  • You may not be able to eat out either:

    • Restaurants may be closed on a public holiday like labour day or be booked up on observed celebrations like mothers day.
  • You may starve:

    • Grocery stores are either closed or close at noon so if you are staying in a hotel, you may not be able to eat out. If you live in France, you may need to go into your reserve stock of food no one wants to eat.
  • Kids have no school:

    • If  your kids go to school while you live and work in France, you will need to book child care for the kids in advance. Otherwise you will have to keep the kids home with you. Not a problem for us, since we have home offices.

 

So what exactly are these days and what do you do?

I’ve written about every holiday in past posts but below is a brief over view of all the possible holidays you may come across in the month of May.

The first two public holidays in May actually fall on the same day — the 1st of May. They are May day and Labour day which used to be two separate holidays in France but have been combined into one.Don't go to France in May: French holidays Labour day and May day. 2 of 6 possible holidays

1- May 1st: Labour day / International Workers Day:

Called La Fête du travail ( 1st of May): Public holiday

On this day don’t expect anything to be open. It is however a good day to take advantage of acrobranching which is a combination of zip lining and climbing trees.

2-May 1st: May Day in English:

Called La Fête du Muguet:  Public holiday

On this day, make sure you buy your loved ones *read your wife, female friends and loved ones, a muguet flower, called Lily flower in English.

Click here to read what I wrote about this combined holiday.

3- 8th of May: Victory in Europe Day:

Called la Fête de la Victoire. Public holiday

Don't go to France in May: French holidays Victory in Europe Day: How its celebrated in France 3 of 6 possible holidays

The 8th of  May 1945 is an important holiday to many European countries because it marks the official end of the second World War and the end of Nazi Germany.  You can read more about it here.

4 – Ascension Day: 39 days after Easter Sunday

Called Ascension: Public Holiday

Don't go to France in May! Ascension Day 4 of 6 French holiday

Ascension day is on a  movable date, falling on a Thursday exactly 39 days after Easter. It usually occurs near the end of May but can occur as late as the 3rd of June.

Ascension is the day that Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection. Many French people attend a special church service but many people also just use this day to spend time with family and loved ones. Because this day falls on a Thursday, people often take an extra long weekend from work. You can read more about it on this post I wrote about Ascension.

5- Mothers Day: Last Sunday of May

Called Fête des Mères: Observed holiday

Don't go to France in May! Mothers day Day 5 of 6 French holiday

Technically mothers day is an observed holiday and not a public holiday. Restaurants and florist shops that would normally be closed are open for mothers day. If you do plan on eating out, make sure you check to see if you need a reservation at those restaurants and be aware that they might have a fixed menu at higher prices.

Like Mothers day in the US and Canada, mothers day is on a movable date-the last Sunday of May and not on the 2nd Sunday of May like in the US and Canada.

6- Pentecost Monday also known as Whit Monday: 50 days after Easter Sunday

Called Lundi de Pentecôte: Public Holiday

Don't go to France in May! Pentecost Monday aka whit Monday 6 of 6 French holiday

Pentecost Monday is the day after Pentecost which falls exactly 50 days after Easter Sunday. Like ascension day, Whit Monday is another religious based holiday which has a movable date and can occur in either May or June.

Many people spend Pentecost Monday quietly in the company of friends and family or enjoy a picnic in the park.  You can read more about Pentecost Monday on this post I wrote.

Conclusion

When I said don’t go to France in May, I was just being dramatic. By all means do go to France in May but be especially mindful that the days you have planned excursions and outing are not official holidays where services you need will be closed.  If ever in doubt, you can always check this wiki page to see what days each holiday is on.

Weird French Food For New Years Eve! Can you stomack it?

new years eve French style. do you dare try their foods?

If you plan on being in France on New Years eve and are invited to a New years dinner (dîner de la Saint Sylvestre) or new years eve party where food is served than you better prepare yourself for certain things, particularly the weird French food.

In France, New Years Eve, known as La Saint-Sylvestre or réveillon de l’an,  is celebrated in a variety of ways. Some people like to organize costume parties with dancing while others like to have a quiet evening doing nothing more than snuggling up in front of the T.V.

More often than not, the vast majority of French choose to celebrate new years eve with a feast called le Reveillon, with friends and family. Be prepared because if you are ever invited to a French New Years Eve gathering with food, you will no doubt see at least one of the food items listed below which some people say is weird French food.

OYSTERS:

Weird french new years eve foods: raw oysters

I hope you like oysters (les huitres – “lay zueetr”),  because every year about 80 thousand tonnes of oysters are consumed in France during the festivities of the new year. Every year since being in France, we have eaten oysters during the new year. We often eat it at Christmas too. They say it’s an aphrodisiac.

FOIE GRAS (fwa gra):

Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feeding
Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feedingFoie Gras which literally means “fat liver” is defined by French law as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force feeding with a feeding tube.

Despite the controversy set around the method of producing foie gras by force feeding, which most animal activist say is torture for the animals, Foie gras is gleefully gobbled up by both French children and adults across France all year round especially during Christmas and New Years.

So wide spread is foie gras, you will never have a hard time finding it at a food store in France. It’s even served to children at school for their end of year Christmas meal. At least it is at my children’s schools

CRUSTACÉS et COQUILLAGES

Weird french new years eve foods: raw sea urchin and crustacean

If you are really lucky, your host spared no expense and in addition to oysters, he or she put out a platter of a variety of shell fish and crustacean over ice.

If you see prawns (Gambas) on the platter, don’t be surprised to see the heads, eyes and antennae still attached to prawns. Optional; grab one and pinch off the head before sucking down the juices if you dare.

You might also find raw cockles, mussels and even raw sea urchin. I will admit I had a hard time eating raw mussels despite the fact that I lived in Japan for years and enjoy sushi.

ESCARGOT

escargot-weird-french-food

You knew it was coming; snails, a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine.

More than half of all the sales of escargots in France (notably with butter and parsley) is sold around the end of the year. And contrary to belief, not all French people eat escargot. Typically the French that do eat them, rarely do so outside of special dinners or holidays. I often see escargot sold in bags in the frozen food section at my local grocery store where I live in France. Despite the fact that I do enjoy escargot, I can’t bring myself to actually cooking it.

SAUMON FUMÉ (smoked salmon):

If you can’t stand the thought of eating escargot, raw oysters or mussels than you might want to stick to the smoked salmon dishes (Saumon Fumé); almost always served cold. I actually enjoy it on petite canapés with chives and crème fraîche

CHAMPAGNE:

And finally, if you hate raw oysters and can’t stand smoked salmon, at least you know you will have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birth place of Champagne.

If by chance you don’t see the words Champagne printed on the label of bubbly you happen to be drinking but instead see the words “CREMANT”, don’t worry. Crémant is actually sparkling wine which is just like champagne.

Real Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France.  In 1891, the French made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region to make a drink called “champagne” so although a vineyard may use the same techniques to produce their bubbly beverage, unless they are physically located in the champagne region of France, they cannot legally call their drink Champagne. Boo.

DO’S DONT’S AND GREETINGS

Finally, these are not really big deals, rather here are little things you should be aware of.

DO: Kiss under the mistletoe?

At midnight after the countdown, everyone cries “Bonne Année”! (happy new year) and everyone, AND I MEAN E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E kisses one another (see my article on French kissing).

While you are kissing everyone, if you happen to see mistletoe (gui pronounced Gee) hanging than be prepared to kiss someone.  That’s right, this tradition which most of us know to happen during Christmas actually happens On New Years Eve in France. Bizarre non not to the French?

DON’T: say Happy New Year until….

Unlike in the United States and Canada, French people DO NOT wish one another Happy New years in advance before the new year. Instead, in the weeks and days leading up to New Years people say……………

”Bonnes fêtes de fin dannée” which literally means “Happy end of year celebrations” but idiomatically it means Happy holidays.

It’s only on the day of or after the 1st of January that you actually say “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year).

MISCONCEPTION: The French don’t eat Crepes on new years.

I have seen several articles plastered across the web that say French people in France eat crepes (very thin pancakes) for new years. This just is not true.

Yes the French eat crepes and can eat them all year round and yes there is a special day where the French celebrate and eat crepes but New years eve is not one of them.

See my article about crepe day (Chandeleur) which occurs on the 2nd of February. (Link coming soon).

Bonne Année everyone.

We had a quiet new years eve feast with friends and ate at least some of the things I listed in this article. Hiccup!

What would you do if you had to eat one of the things on this list that you did not like?

Why Is Everything Closed On The 1st Of May In France? Another French Holiday!

French holiday; may day and labour day in france

If you come to France in May, May 1st to be exact, don’ be surprised to find EVERYTHING closed from banks and grocery stores, to schools and stores. Even the Louvre is closed. But Why?

Two Holidays For The Price Of One

I’ll never forget our first May in France. We were both surprised and confused by the fact that nothing was open on May First. Even more confusing was the fact that there were a bunch of people on random street corners selling flowers?  Bizarre.

Little did I know that it was a publich holiday and that the stores being closed and people selling flowers on the street corners were actually two different things being celebrated on the same day.

Labour day and May day.

1 – Labour Day / International Workers Day:  What To Expect and How To Celebrate It in France

Called La Fête du travail in French.

labour-day La Fete du travail in France is to celebrate the 40 hour work weekUnlike labour Day in Canada and the US, labour day in France is not celebrated on the first Monday of September. Instead it is celebrated on the first of May.

Labour Day is a public holiday and happens to be the only day of the year where employees must legally be given the day off (except for professions where work cannot be interrupted such as public transportation and hospitals).

Most countries celebrate labour day for the same reasons and in the same way but not always on the same day. For example Bolivia and India both celebrate International workers day on the First of May like France however the US and Canada celebrate on the 1st of September.

What To Expect

Don’t expect much fanfare on this day. It’s a day to relax and celebrate the 40 hour work week so why don’t you just go to the beach or have a BBQ or something. Besides, since almost everyone has the day off, you will be hard pressed to find any establishments open.

Want to learn more about International Workers Day in France?

2- May Day: La Fête du Muguet: What to expect and how to celebrate it in France

Called La Fête du Muguet in French

Like labour day, May day also falls on the first of May. It had long been a French tradition to give those you love a little bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley flowers which are called <<Muguet >> in French. In giving these flowers you are also wishing that person happiness and good luck in celebration of the arrival of spring.

Background: King Charles IX of France once received a lily of the valley flower on May 1st, 1561 and liked it so much that he decided to present all the ladies of his court lily of the valley flowers every year on the 1st of My. Then around the 1900’s, men started to do the same and ever since it has remained a French tradition.

I discovered that although it is traditional to give Muguet flowers, you can also offer just about any flower you like. Like my friend Franck who came over and offered a single rose to me, his wife and several other women in our circle of friends. Merci Franck, c’est très gentil!

So if you are ever in France on May Day, go buy some Muguet flowers at a florist near you or at one of the countless flower stands that popup overnight on street corners, probably because this is the one day they can legally sell flowers without a license.

Do French People Celebrate The Fourth Of July In France?

Do the French celebrate the fourth of July?

Some photos from the 14th of July (France’s independence day)

Do the French celebrate the Fourth of July In France? 

HUH?

Why would the French celebrate America’s Independence?

…………………………………..

Right before the fourth of July, I received an email from someone asking me if the French celebrated the fourth of July.

This questioned surprised me because the fourth of July is an American holiday which celebrates America’s independence from Great Britain; It’s also known as Independence day.

Most people you ask will tell you NON NON NON mon ami, the French DO NOT celebrate the fourth of July.

The French have their own Independence day which they celebrate on the 14th of July. It’s called La Fête Nationale Francaise, pronounced  La /fet/ na-syeeo-nal which commemorates the storming of the Bastille. It is sometimes referred to as quatorze-juillet (which means 14th of July).

storming OF Bastille

The storming of Bastille Prison was the start of the French revolution and the end of a monarchy

The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of the Louis XVI regime of . It’s capture by the people showed that the king’s power was no longer absolute marked the end of absolute monarchy and the birth of the sovereign Nation and ultimately the First Republic.

English speakers refer to this national French holiday as Bastille day (for reasons mentioned above).

How Is La Fête Nationale Francaise (Bastille Day celebrated?)

14July Bastille fireworks

This is our third time celebrating La Fête Nationale Francaise and from what I can tell, it is celebrated much the same way Americans celebrate the fourth of July and Canadians celebrate Canada day.

Fete nationale francaise

We hung out with our German neighbors and friends. We ate, drank and watched fireworks together.

Fireworks, parties, parades, food, friends, bar-b-que (minus the corn, French people don’t really it corn) and lots of hanging flags.

Just like United States 4th of July and Canada’s independence day on July 1st, the French also get a day off from work.

If you are ever in France for Bastille day, you will be hard pressed to find anything open except for maybe some restaurants.

Fete nationale francaise

Catherine invited her friend Enzo an they played an hung out too.

Where Can You Watch Fireworks In France

Paris fireworks bastille day

Many french towns have fireworks on bastille day.

Paris of course has one of the biggest celebrations in France but it’s not the only place that celebrates this holiday. It is after all the biggest and most celebrated French holiday.

Just about every town has fireworks on Bastille day and if they don’t have fireworks, you don’t have to go very far to watch them in a neighboring town or city.

Not In France? You Can Still Celebrate!

You don’t have to be in France to celebrate Bastille day.

Many Francophiles and French people living outside of France celebrate this holiday with plenty of fanfare.

Bastille day in Los Angeles

In LA, there is a Bastille Day festival which is celebrated in the gorgeous gardens of the Page Museum on Wilshire Boulevard which serves of French food and live entertainment including.

Bastille Day in India

on India’s south eastern coast there is a city called Pondicherry which celebrates Bastille Day complete with French parades.

Other places that celebrate Bastille day

  • Australia
  • Philadelphia
  • Tahiti
  • New Orleans and more……….

Question: Did you also wonder if the French celebrated the fourth of July?

Pentecost Monday aka Whit Monday in France

Pentecost Monday: Another French Holiday I Had No Idea Existed

Pentecost Monday aka Whit Monday in France

Pentecost Monday or as the French call it, “Lundi de Pentecôte” is yet another holiday that occurs in the month of May. The kids don’t go to school, grocery stores are either closed or close early, most businesses are closed and the bus and trains are running on a special holiday schedule if at all.

What is Pentecost Day?

As with many of the French holidays, I had to do a little research to understand what this holiday was all about.

Pentecost Day, or La fête de la Pentecôte is a religious holiday, Unlike Victory in Europe Day which is a civil holiday,

The name Pentecost is descended from the Ancient Greek word pentếkosta which means “the fiftieth day”. True to it’s name, Pentecost occurs fifty days after……. Easter and It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and officially ends the Easter celebrations which lasts seven weeks.

Technically, there are two days of Pentecost. The first is on Sunday and the second, falls on a Monday.

Like Easter, Pentecost Monday is a “ A movable feast”. In Christianity, a movable feast is a religious holiday – ( a feast or fast day) that falls on different dates in response to the date of Easter which is also a movable feast because IT’S date varies also.

I won’t get any more detailed than that. If you are interested in learning more, you can start by reading this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whit_Monday and then doing your own research.

Other countries that celebrate Pentecost day.

Many countries celebrate Pentecost Monday but it may be called by another name; Whit Monday.

Austria, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany,Greece, Grenada, Gibraltar, Hungary, Iceland, Côte d’Ivoire, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Saint Lucia, Solomon Islands and Switzerland.

It used to be a holiday in Ireland and the UK but as of 1973, both countries no longer celebrate this holiday.

How is it celebrated in France

Pentecost Pilgrimage from Notre Dame paris to Cartres

Each year there is a Pentecost pilgrimage where up to 12,000 pilgrims from 30 countries walk from the cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres.

The pilgrimage to Chartres originated in the 12th century and was revived in 1983.

Pilgrims are organized into groups of between 20 to 60 people who will walk through the streets of Paris, the countryside, and then arrive in Chartres.

WOW..

Summary and How Are We Celebrating

So how are we celebrating? I am almost embarrassed to say that we are not celebrating Pentacost day and for us it’s just another day.

Catherine and I used this day, that she normally goes to school, to finish up one of the piñata’s that we are making for her 6th birthday party which will be a good ole North American “cowboy and Indian” themed kids party.

Pentecost day is just another day for us

 

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