France observes and celebrates a number of holidays throughout the year, whether religious holidays, seasonal holidays, or national holidays relevant to the history of France.
Should your foreign business have a presence in France, it is important to keep on top of all public holidays from a HR compliance perspective. For ease, we’ve summarised all public holidays that are observed throughout the country in 2021.
1 January | Friday | New Year’s Day | Jour de l’an
The night preceding New Year’s Day (New Year’s Eve) traditionally consists of a dinner party with friends, known as le reveillon. Everyone is sure to pop a bottle of champagne at midnight.
5 April | Monday | Easter Monday | Pâques
Although secularism is increasingly more prominent in France, Catholic holidays continue to hold great significance. The Easter weekend is a family holiday that falls during the school holidays.
It is generally a time for chocolate with Easter egg hunts and family lunches, complete with roasted lamb.
1 May | Saturday | Labour Day | Fête du Travail
Also known as May Day, the first day of May is a legally required paid holiday for all French employees.
Traditionally a day on which trade unions stage labour protests in large cities, it is also called la fête du muguet (Lily-of-the-Valley Day), when it is customary to exchange these flowers for good luck.
It is a day to celebrate French workers and their contributions to society.
8 May | Saturday | Victory Day | Fête de la Victoire
Celebration and remembrance of the end of World War II. This marks the day when Germany surrendered to the allied forces. Military parades are on show throughout the day.
13 May | Thursday | Ascension | Ascension
The date changes from year to year as it depends on when Easter occurs. Ascension Day is celebrated each year on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter Sunday.
24 May | Monday | Whit Monday | Lundi de Pentecôte
As with other Easter-related holidays, this date changes from year to year. Known as Whit Monday, the holiday falls on the Monday following the 7th Sunday after Easter Sunday.
Since 2005, Whit Monday was removed from the public holiday list and changed to Solidarity Day.
Workers are not paid and the money is used to help the elderly and disabled.
In 2008, Whit Monday was reinstated in the Public Holiday list and allows the companies to choose any date for Solidarity Day.
14 July | Wednesday | French National Day / Bastille Day | Fête du 14 juillet
This day is the French National Day that commemorates the French revolution. The commemoration is celebrated with an enormous military parade along the world-famous Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris. A perfect summer day for a picnic and a game of pétanque.
15 August | Sunday | Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary | Assomption (or Le 15 août)
This public holiday falls in the middle of August, when it is peak holiday season and many locals will be away from work. Thus, not much is expected to occur around this date.
1 November | Monay | Allsaints Day | Toussaint
It is a day where the tradition gets people to visit the graves of their old ones. They take the opportunity to leave chrysanthemums, the typical flower for this day on the graves
11 November | Thursday | Armistice Day | Fête de l’armistice
Armistice Day is a day to commemorate the peace treaty (armistice) signed at the end of World War I.
25 December | Saturday | Christmas Day | Noël
On the days leading up to Christmas, children leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts from Père Noël (sometimes known as Papa Noël, or Father Christmas in English). These gifts may include confectionery or toys.
Both at home and in the workplace, Christmas decorations are common, particularly the sapin de Noël – the Christmas tree – with fruit, ribbons and toys hung from them.
Many homes and churches will also display a crèche filled with santons, or Nativity scene.
Christmas in France is a special time of worship, generosity, family reunions and acts of charity.
Each country celebrates its own distinct holidays, which not only affect business but also their culture. These celebrations, in fact, are a colourful demonstration of a nation’s cultural values and customs. Understanding and observing these is one of the key aspects of intercultural communication and awareness.