Working abroad can be a fantastic career opportunity and few countries are as attractive as France. But though you’ll have the culture and plenty of sights to explore, you’ll also have some responsibilities.
Part of your homework will include learning about public holidays in France. Though some are international, many are limited just to this European country. Understanding when you have these days off can save you a lot of embarrassment. The last thing you’d want to do is to show you up to work when you don’t need to!
A public holiday is often the best time to rest and recover your strength. Although hard work is indeed rewarding, you shouldn’t overdo it. Resting on these days will lower your stress level and allow you to focus on your personal life.
A typical French employee works seven hours each day, five days a week. This makes up 35 hours a week. In France, your day will begin at 8 am or 9 am. Lunch breaks are usually scheduled at 12:00 or 12:30 and last one hour. The days generally end at either 4 or 5 pm.
But not that you know what your workdays will look like, what about the days when you don’t need to work? In this article, we’ll go over the French public holidays when you should skip working.
How do the French public holidays work?
The French public holidays (les jours fériés) are a collection of 11 holidays celebrated across the entire country. This number varies from province to province, with some celebrating as many as 13 public holidays. Much like in most countries, these holidays serve as a commemoration of special events, whether religious or national.
These French public holidays always fall on the same date, with the most notable exception being the Easter holidays. The French follow the Gregorian calendar, which is the most popular one in the world.
One shortcoming of the French public holidays is that they can fall on a Saturday. When they do, they don’t get moved to a weekday as is customary in some other countries.
However, this isn’t the case with Sundays. When a public holiday in France falls on a Sunday, it is moved to a weekday. And unlike in the UK, French public holidays aren’t reorganized to create the so-called long weekend.
Most official institutions do not operate on public holidays. Some private businesses might choose to open for a few hours though.
4 movable French public holidays you need to know about
A movable public holiday doesn’t have a fixed date and falls on a different day every year. In France, all the movable public holidays are related to Easter (Pâques).
Good Friday (le Vendredi Saint)
Only two provinces consider Good Friday a public holiday – Alsace and Moselle. This movable holiday falls on the Friday before Easter Monday. Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ on this day.
Easter Monday (le lundi de Pâques)
Easter Monday marks the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It follows immediately after Easter Sunday. Easter Monday is an annual public holiday in entire France.
Ascension Day (l’Ascension)
Ascension Day is a movable holiday that falls on the 40th day after Easter. Christians honor Jesus Christ’s ascension to heaven on this day. Though some spend this public holiday with their families, many go to church on Ascension Day.
Whit Monday (lundi de Pentecôte)
Whit Monday is celebrated across the whole country and falls on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. Though schools and government institutions don’t operate on Whit Monday, many businesses stay open.
9 non-movable French public holidays to look forward to
As the name suggests, non-movable French public holidays fall on the same date each year.
New Year’s Day (Réveillon de Jour de l’An)
Most European countries celebrate New Year’s Day and France is no exception. Naturally, this public holiday always falls on the 1st of January, according to the Gregorian Calendar. Very few institutions choose to operate on this day.
Labor Day (la Fête du Travail)
Labor Day is one of the most universal international holidays. This day is meant to show appreciation to workers. The French celebrate it on the 1st of May. Many consider it the creme de la creme of French public holidays. This is because it’s the only paid holiday in France.
Victory Day (La Fête de la Victoire)
Victory Day celebrates the day France gained freedom from the Nazis during World War II. The day always falls on the 8th of May and many French citizens spend it at parades.
Bastille Day (la fête nationale française)
Also known as the French National Day, it is a commemoration of the Feast of the Federation. It always falls on the 14th of July. This important national holiday is a tribute to the French Revolution. This popular holiday often features military parades and various dances.
Assumption Day (l’Assomption)
Assumption Day is a Christian holiday celebrated on the 15th of August. This public holiday dates back to 1858 when a little girl supposedly saw the Virgin Mary. The day commemorates the Virgin’s Mary ascension to heaven. Many people throw feasts on this religious holiday.
All Saint’s Day (La Toussaint)
This holiday falls on the 1st of November every year. On All Saint’s Day, people commemorate their deceased family members and loved ones. They often visit their graves and decorate them with wreaths, flowers, and candles. Though the schools are closed on this day, most businesses operate as usual.
Armistice Day (Le Jour du Souvenir)
Also known as Remembrance Day, this public holiday falls on the 11th of November. The French commemorate the soldiers who died during World War I. Government officials pay tribute to fallen soldiers on this day.
Christmas Day (Le jour de Noël)
Christianity plays a big part in shaping the history of Europe. It’s thus no surprise that the French also celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. This public holiday falls on the 25th of December. Many French decorate their homes week in advance. Families often meet to feast together on this special day. And last but not least, they give each other presents.
Boxing Day (le lendemain de Noël)
Though not a national holiday, the people of Alsace and Moselle celebrate Boxing Day. In these two regions, it’s considered an official public holiday.
Do you still get paid on French public holidays?
If you have worked for at least one month, you are legally qualified to get a holiday with pay. However, your employer is only obliged to pay you on Labor Day. The French have no other paid holidays. If your employer chooses to pay you for other holidays, it’s entirely because of their goodwill. Luckily, most French employers are very generous in this regard.
FAQ about French public holidays
How many public holidays are there in France?
In France, there are 11 official holidays per year. They are recognized by legislation and are observed across the nation.
What is the difference between a national holiday and a regional holiday in France?
A regional holiday is one that is only observed in particular regions of France, whereas a national holiday is one that is observed across the entire nation. In France, there are a few regional holidays that are celebrated in particular departments or areas.
What are the most important public holidays in France?
New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Victory in Europe Day, Bastille Day, Ascension Day, All Saints’ Day, Armistice Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day are the most significant public holidays observed in France (December 26th).
Are shops and businesses closed on public holidays in France?
In France, the majority of stores and companies are indeed closed on holidays. In contrast, some stores in popular districts or big cities might continue to be open, and crucial services like hospitals and public transportation continue to run.
Do people in France get paid for public holidays?
Absolutely, with the possible exception of some part-time or temporary employees who may not be eligible, employees in France are entitled to paid time off on public holidays.
What are the typical ways that people in France celebrate public holidays?
Depending on the occasion, French people celebrate public holidays in a variety of ways, but frequent customs include parades, fireworks shows, and getting together with loved ones for dinners or outdoor activities.
Are public transportation services affected on public holidays in France?
True, particularly in smaller towns or rural areas, public transportation services in France may run on a limited schedule or not at all on holidays.
Are public holidays in France always on the same day each year?
With the exception of Easter Monday, which changes every year depending on the date of Easter Sunday, most public holidays in France fall on the same day each year.
What are some traditional French foods and drinks associated with public holidays?
Galette des rois, a cake usually consumed on Epiphany, crêpes, roast lamb, and bûche de Nol are examples of traditional French meals linked with public holidays (a cake traditionally eaten at Christmas). Champagne is a popular beverage to celebrate important occasions.
Do schools and universities in France have different holiday schedules than businesses?
Certainly, in France, companies and educational institutions observe distinct holiday schedules. People frequently enjoy extended vacations, such as two weeks off for Christmas and two months off for the summer. They do, however, also take shorter vacations throughout the year, such as a one- or two-week period off in October.
Final Thoughts on French public holidays
Public holidays often provide us with a much-needed break from work. Many times, we don’t even realize we’re overworked until we get a day off.
France gives you 11 opportunities to step back and relax each year. In some regions, you can enjoy as many as 13 public holidays. And though only Labor Day is a paid holiday, the rest you get on these days is often just as rewarding.
If you liked this article about French public holidays, you should check out this one on how many working days there are in a year.
You should also check out these other articles of ours about public holidays in Japan, South Korean holidays, Singapore public holidays, New Zealand holidays, and also public holidays in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US.