A quick overview of the festivals and traditions that punctuate life in France over the months. On your agenda!
The different types of festivals celebrated in France
In the preamble, let us take stock of the different types of festivals celebrated in France. We consider that there are three main types of festivals: historical festivals, religious festivals and civil festivals. Historical festivals refer to events that have marked the history of France. Religious festivals, meanwhile, correspond to key dates in the Catholic religion. Thus, these festivals correspond to the ancient and main French traditions and religious practices. Also, even if the French Republic is based on the principle of secularism, these different festivals continue to be celebrated today, by tradition more than by religious conviction. Finally, the civil festivals make it possible to celebrate the important dates of the civil and / or political life of France.
In addition, among all the days of French festivals, some are holidays: these are days when the vast majority of the inhabitants of France do not work. There are eleven public holidays in France. What make the French happy ... especially when this holiday is two days before or after the weekend! Indeed, in this specific case, it is quite common to claim an unworked period of four consecutive days: the holiday + an additional day of leave + the two usual days of the weekend. This is what the French call “making the bridge”.
Now let's take a closer look at the main different festivals and traditions that punctuate French life every year.
French festivals and traditions of the first quarter (January, February, March)
As you know, the start of the year is conducive to wishes and wishes for the future. This is how we wish everyone around us “a happy new year” or our “best wishes”. If the tradition wanted that we send pretty cards to address our beautiful thoughts for the coming year, nowadays it is customary to do it via social networks or electronic messages, which is often considered regrettable for people attached to traditions. January 1, or New Year, is a holiday, to start the year off right! It is a civil holiday. The start of the year is also marked by what we call “good resolutions”. It is the moment for each Frenchman to decide on bad habits to stop, future projects to carry out, etc. Of course, most of the time, we quickly forget the resolutions taken the first days of the year, especially when it comes to playing more sports or limiting our consumption of chocolate! January 6 will follow a religious holiday, the Epiphany. Its origin is in the Christian religion and refers to the three wise men who came to bring gifts to Jesus a few days after his birth. Today, this festival is often called “Fête des Rois”. On this occasion, the French are in the habit of tasting a galette des rois, a sweet cake in which a bean is hidden. The person who discovers the bean in his share of cake becomes the King or Queen of the party! As the French are very greedy, we continue on February 2 with the celebration of Candlemas, also religious. Tradition has it that we eat delicious sweet pancakes, to the delight of children (and very often their parents!). A few days later, on February 14, it is lovers who are celebrating on the occasion of the civil holiday of Valentine's Day. Dinner at the restaurant, chocolate, perfume, bouquet of red roses are the gifts traditionally offered that day. But many French people refuse to celebrate this holiday, considered too commercial. We end the first quarter in style with the celebration on March 20 of the day of the French language and the Francophonie! On this day, many French-language schools offer their students to participate in games, contests or cultural workshops.
French festivals and traditions of the second quarter (April, May, June)
The second quarter of the civil calendar is reputed to be the preferred quarter of many French people. Why ? It's very simple: it's the quarter with the largest number of holidays. April 1 or April Fool's Day (which is not a holiday) is a civil holiday celebrated in many countries of the world. It's the day of pranks and jokes, even journalists have fun spreading false information. We continue with Easter. This religious holiday has an interesting feature. It is a so-called mobile holiday, that is to say that it is not celebrated on a fixed date. Indeed, it is necessary to refer to the lunar calendar. Thus, Easter Sunday is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon which follows the spring equinox. Easter Monday is a public holiday. In the Christian religion, this holiday celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Today, it is a time spent with family, often around a festive meal where we traditionally share a paschal lamb. In addition, the children have fun looking for chocolate eggs, chickens or rabbits, hidden in the garden by the adults of the family. Beware of liver attacks! We continue with Labor Day, every May 1st. On the occasion of this civil and international celebration, the unions of French workers are organizing a large demonstration in the streets of the capital. On the same day, it is customary to offer people you love a little sprig of lily of the valley, a very fragrant flower which is said to bring good luck. A few days later, on May 8, there comes a historic celebration which marks the end in France of the Second World War in 1945. It is a public holiday, a national meeting of meditation and numerous military ceremonies are organized through the country in front of the war memorial. Then comes the feast of the Ascension, celebrated forty days after Easter. It is a mobile and religious celebration. For Catholics, it is the memory of Jesus' rise in Paradise. For the vast majority of French people, young and old, it's also time to take advantage of four days of vacation. In fact, the Ascension always falls on a Thursday ... which makes it possible to make the bridge and not resume the way to school or work until the following Monday! We continue the year with Pentecost, which is also a movable feast of religious origin celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter in memory of the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles of Jesus. The following Monday being a public holiday, the majority of French people only retain from this holiday the possibility of enjoying a three-day weekend. In spring, there is also Mother's Day and Father's Day.
French festivals and traditions of the third quarter (July, August, September)
France's national holiday is celebrated on July 14. This holiday, of historic origin, recalls a major event of the French Revolution: the storming of the Bastille. Nowadays, the French can admire magnificent fireworks or even dance at the firefighters' ball in most French municipalities. In addition, military parades are organized. The Paris parade is traditionally broadcast live on television. The next holiday is religious. It is about the Assumption. On this holiday, which is a public holiday, Catholics remember Mary's ascent to heaven. For the French, it is often an opportunity to admire fireworks at their vacation spot since it is a summer period.
French festivals and traditions of the fourth quarter (October, November, December)
The end of the year is marked by the celebration of Halloween on October 31, a party during which the children disguise themselves as terrifying characters and demand candy and confectionery on pain of being cast a bad spell. The next day, November 1, is a holiday of religious origin. It is All Saints' Day, a tribute to the deceased whose loved ones will flower the graves in the cemetery. The next holiday is November 11, the day commemorating the victory of the First World War in 1918. Like May 8, this holiday is known for its many tributes paid to soldiers who died for France. The end of the year is fast approaching, it is time to decorate the streets, shops and houses while waiting for the most popular holidays: Christmas. The children may write a letter to Santa Claus to list their wishes, and the adults will think about the delicious meal they will share with their family for Christmas Eve on December 24. On December 25, a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, all French people will unpack their gifts and probably drink a glass of champagne. They will have a short week to prepare for the festive New Year's Eve, December 31, to celebrate the transition to the following year, usually with friends.