French holidays and important dates in 2016
Here is a list of national French holidays in 2016, plus regional French holidays, school holidays, daylight saving, Mother's and Father's Days and other important dates in the French holiday calendar.
If you're living in France, mark your calendar with the below important dates of French public holidays. France observes 11 public holidays each year, however, only May Day is classed as a statutory (paid) public holiday in France; the entitlement to other paid public holidays and conditions for working on public holidays (such as higher pay) are left to the discretion of the employer-employee contract or union, so it's important to check.
Most of the French public holidays apply across the nation although two regions, Alsace and Lorraine, have two extra public holidays. The former German territory retained these two extra public holidays when it was returned to France at the end of WWI.
The two most widely celebrated public holidays in France are Bastille Day on 14 July and All Saints Day on 1 November. The first commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and is a celebration of nationhood with communal fireworks, tricolour flags flying and moules frites at the mairie. The second, the Catholic holy day of La Toussaint or All Saints, is a more private affair where families place flowers – most commonly chrysanthemums – on graves in honour of their dead relatives, and then go home for a huge lunch. You can see which holidays conincide with the top French festivals, as it's a great reason to travel the country and experience French culture.
All Saints Day falls on the day after Halloween. Halloween is a somewhat controversial celebration in France as it is seen by some as an unwelcome American import, although it is increasingly celebrated in France, especially in the larger cities.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on December 24 and 25 are also main celebrations, although in parts of northern and eastern France, children receive presents on the morning of St Nicholas’ Day on 6 December.
Many businesses in France close for national public holidays (bank holidays), although some shopping centres and grocers may stay open, even if only for half a day.
In general, if a public holiday falls on a Saturday, no extra day is given during the week.
When a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, employees in France commonly make a 'bridge' holiday (faire le pont), creating a very long weekend. Some businesses may opt to close completely during a bridge holiday.
National public holidays in France 2016
- January 1: New Year's Day (Jour de l'an)
- March 25: Good Friday – applicable only to Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine.
- March 28: Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
- May 1: Labour Day (Fête du premier mai)
- May 5: Ascension Day (Jour de l'Ascension, 40 days after Easter)
- May 8: WWII Victory Day (Fête du huitième mai or Jour de la Victoire 45)
- May 16: Whit Monday – also known as Pentecost Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte).
- July 14: Bastille Day (Fête nationale)
- August 15: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Assomption)
- November 1: All Saints Day (La Toussaint)
- November 11: Armistice Day (Jour d'armistice)
- December 25: Christmas Day (Noël)
- December 26: Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day (Deuxième jour de Noël): applicable only to Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine.
Other important dates
- March 27: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts.
- April 1: April Fool’s Day (Poisson d'Avril)
- May 29: Mother’s day (last Sunday in May)
- June 19: Father’s day (third Sunday in June)
- October 30: Clocks go back one hour (DST ends).
School dates vary according to which ‘zone’ you’re in. The French Ministry of Education maintains a comprehensive list of school holidays in France.
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