France is steeped in tradition which can be seen across its myriad of cultural festivals, events and national holidays.
New Year’s Day – 1 January 2014
France, like most other countries that follow the Gregorian calendar, takes a national holiday on the first of January to celebrate the New Year. As well as the usual New Year’s festivals; the ubiquitous fireworks and public gatherings, France also believes in a rather superstitious omen. The weather on New Year’s Day is said to predict the harvest for the coming year; if the wind is blowing to the east then fruit harvests will be plentiful; if the wind is blowing west then livestock and fish will be abundance; if the wind is blowing south then the weather will be good for the year ahead and if the wind is blowing north, beware, as this is said to mean that the crops will fail.
Good Friday – 18 April 2014
The Christian holiday of Good Friday, known as Vendredi Saint in French, commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. The Friday before Easter marks the Good Friday holiday which is observed by two of France’s 27 regions; Alsace and Moselle in the east. Some households opt to fast or not eat meat.
Easter Sunday – 20 April 2014
Many across France will mark Easter Sunday today. Some will attend religious services at their local churches and families and friends will gather to enjoy a traditional Easter Sunday lunch of lamb and spring greens.
Easter Monday – 21 April 2014
Lundi de Pâques, aka Easter Monday is a national holiday throughout France. Families and communities stage Easter egg hunts and various villages hold their own festivities. The village of Bessières in the Pyrenees cooks up a giant omelette of 15,000 eggs for the community to consume. Local villages hold Easter Monday parades, such as the colorful affair in Cargèse on Corsica.
May Day/Labour Day – 1 May 2014
The first of May each year is given over to La Fête du Muguet or La Fête du Travail, where loved ones exchange lily of the valley flowers. Specific celebrations marking workers’ rights may be held, and demonstrations may be staged. The giving of lily of the valley dates back to 1561 when King Charles IX of France was give the flower as a lucky charm. The flower symbolises springtime and dog roses are also given as an alternative.
Victory in Europe Day – 8 May 2014
Each year on the eighth of May marks ‘Victoire 1945’, aka ‘la fête de la victoire’, which marks the end of World War II hostilities in Europe. The date signifies the French people’s freedom as it’s the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s announcement on 8 May 1945 of the end of World War II in France.
Ascension Day – 29 May 2013
The day that marks Jesus’ Ascension is held today and is a national holiday across France, where family and friends gather and enjoy the spring weather.
Whit Monday – 9 June 2014
Another public holiday across France is the Lundi de Pentecôte, aka Whit Monday which follows Whit Sunday.
Bastille Day – 14 July 2014
The fourteenth of July each year sees France celebrate their culture with special festivals to marks their Fête Nationale, aka National Day. It’s as big a holiday as New Year with many large and lavish public events held across the country, including a military parade in Paris along with fireworks, parties and gatherings in cities and towns. Both the Eiffel Tower and the tricoloured flag are symbolic of Bastille Day. Incidentally the name ‘Bastille’ stems from the harsh prison in Paris and the storming of the Bastille at the start of the French Revolution.
Assumption of Mary in France – 15 August 2014
The catholic festival of The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is better known as L’Assomption de Marie in French. The public holiday celebrates the day that the Virgin Mary’s body and spirit were assumed to heaven. Catholic communities throughout France celebrate with local festivals, particularly in the smaller village where church festivals feature prominently.
All Saints’ Day – 1 November 2014
Toussaint, aka All Saints’ Day is both a day to remember those that have died and also a day to reflect on the progression into autumn.
Armistice Day in France – 11 November 2014
Many countries in Europe mark Veterans Day, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day each year on 11 November. Known locally as Armistice 1918, it’s a sombre day and remembers all those that fought and dies in World War I, as well as other wars.
Christmas Day – 25 December 2014
Noël is a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus, although it has evolved beyond the religious elements. Indeed many French households dress Christmas trees, give seasonal gifts and consume special foods in addition to attending church services. Popular Christmastime dishes include a delicious aigo-boulido (garlic soup), truffle omelette and ‘papillottes’ candy sweets for dessert.
Image Credit; Wikipedia