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National holidays in France in May

PUBLISHED: 16:00 21 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:33 25 April 2018

It is traditional to give Lily of the Valley on 1 May © Atout France / Emmanuel Valentin

It is traditional to give Lily of the Valley on 1 May © Atout France / Emmanuel Valentin

There are four national holidays in France in May this year, when many businesses close for the day. Make sure you know when they are so you can start planning your long weekends!

If you’re shortly spending time in France, be aware that May has many a national holiday, with four taking place this month. Two of them fall on a Tuesday and one of them falls on a Thursday so you may find many people decide to ‘faire le pont’ and take the Monday/Friday off too! On national holidays you may find that a number of businesses including shops, banks, post offices and even cafés and restaurants are closed for the occasion.

Fête du Travail, 1 May

The first is on Tuesday 1 May – the Fête du Travail or Labour Day, which celebrates the introduction of the eight-hour working day in 1919. Another celebration falls on 1 May; the Fête du Muguet, when tradition dictates that loved ones are presented with a sprig of lily of the valley as a good luck charm.


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VE Day, 8 May

Tuesday 8 May sees France celebrate VE Day, (Victory in Europe Day) the official end of World War II in Europe. There are often parades and church services held to mark the occasion, especially if it is an anniversary year.

Ascension Day, 10 May

Thursday 10 May is Ascension Day – the date when Christians believe Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection. Many people take the Friday off to create a four-day weekend (a process known as ‘faire le pont’ – literally, ‘to make the bridge’).

Whit Monday, 21 May

Monday 21 May us Whit Monday, the day after Whit Sunday or Pentecost. Pentecost is observed 10 days after Ascension Day and 50 days after Easter and commemorates the day when Jesus's disciples and other Christians received the Holy Spirit.

Make your plans accordingly!

Find out what other events are happening in France in May

Learn about other French traditions at Christmas and April Fool's Day


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