Living in France? Here’s a list of all the French public holidays you need to know in 2020, as well as other important dates to make a note of on your calendar.
Whether you’re living in France or just visiting, below is a list of important French holidays to mark on your calendar. Many businesses in France close for French national holidays (or French bank holidays), although some shopping centers and grocers may stay open on French holidays, even if only for half a day, particularly in larger cities.
To ensure you don’t miss out on anything important, our guide puts together a list of France’s public holidays and important dates for your calendar.
Introduction to French public holidays
France observes 11 French public holidays each year, however, only May Day is classed as a paid statutory holiday in France; the entitlement to other paid French holidays and the conditions for working on French national holidays (such as higher pay) are left to the discretion of the employer-employee contract or union, so check the French holiday calendar when looking for jobs in France.
Most French 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 World War I.
If a national holiday in France falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is usually given as a French holiday. If a national holiday in France falls on a Saturday, however, no extra day is given during the week. When French holiday dates fall 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 in France. You can see which French bank holidays coincide with the top French festivals, as it’s a great reason to travel the country and experience French food and culture.
The two most widely celebrated holidays in France are Bastille Day on 14 July and All Saints Day on 1 November. The first French national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and is a celebration of nationhood with communal fireworks (see image below), tricolour flags flying and moules frites at the mairie.
The second French holiday, 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. All Saints Day falls on the day after Halloween, although Halloween is a somewhat controversial celebration in France as it is seen by some as an unwelcome American import. However, it is increasingly celebrated as a holiday in France, especially in the larger cities.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on December 24 and 25 are also widely celebrated French holidays, although in parts of northern and eastern France some children receive presents on the morning of St Nicholas’ Day on 6 December.
Here’s a list of all French national holidays and important dates in 2020 below.
Bastille Day is one of biggest French holidays celebrated around the country.
French national holidays
- Wednesday, 1 January: New Year’s Day (Jour de l’an)
- Friday, 10 April: Good Friday – Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine
- Monday, 13 April: Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
- Friday, 1 May: Labour Day (Fête du premier mai)
- Friday, 8 May: World War II Victory Day (Fête du huitième mai or Jour de la Victoire 45)
- Thursday, 21 May: Ascension Day (Jour de l’Ascension, 40 days after Easter)
- Monday, 1 June: Whit Monday – also known as Pentecost Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte)
- Tuesday, 14 July: Bastille Day (Fête nationale)
- Saturday, 15 August: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Assomption)
- Sunday, 1 November: All Saints’ Day (La Toussaint)
- Wednesday, 11 November: Armistice Day (Jour d’armistice)
- Friday, 25 December: Christmas Day (Noël)
- Saturday, 26 December: Boxing Day/St Stephen’s Day (Deuxième jour de Noël) – Alsace and Moselle/Lorraine
Bleuet de France is worn on the French holiday of Armistice Day in memory of veterans and war victims, similar to the remembrance poppy used in Commonwealth countries.
Important dates in France
- Sunday, 29 March: Clocks go forward one hour as daylight saving time (DST) starts
- Wednesday, 1 April: April Fool’s Day (Poisson d’Avril)
- Sunday, 7 June: Mother’s Day (normally last Sunday in May)
- Sunday, 21 June: Father’s Day (third Sunday in June)
- Sunday, 25 October: Clocks go back one hour as daylight saving time (DST) ends.
French school holidays
See our guide to school holidays in France.
Holidays in France: vocabulary
- Holiday in French: jour férié (official days off of work), fête (religious holidays)
- Holidays in French: vacances (vacation)
- To go on vacation: passer les vacances