Les ponts de mai

Posted by on May 3, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Les ponts de mai

The French have a reputation for being very good at what they do. Wine, cheese, political scandals…they really seemed to have cornered the market. One thing that this country of bon vivants seems especially wonderful at is enjoying time off. Notorious for its generous vacation time, France is a country that appreciates holidays. While the rest of us spend the month of May hoping for summer to finally show its face, the French are sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying three public holidays (and the time off that comes with them). Not only do they get the holiday, but they also add a pont – a bridge day, defined as being a day between holidays, which translates into a four-day weekend. Hence the special weather report for the 3 May ponts pictured above. That being said, it is worth noting that if you are planning a trip that coincides with these days, most services will be operating on a holiday schedule, if at all. Be sure to check ahead to ensure that you avoid any surprises. Vive les vacances!

Fête du Travail (May Day/Labour Day)
On May 1st, 1561, the reigning king of France received a sprig of lily of the valley, something that evidently pleased him so much that he decided to make it a tradition. The next year, he offered the same flowers to all of the women in his court and it caught on across the nation. These days on May 1st, sprigs of lily of the valley are as ubiquitous as cafés and for one day only, they are sold tax-free. They are also used to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, the violent end to what was supposed to have been peaceful rally in support of workers asking for an eight-hour workday, which evolved into Labour Day. Whether they are used to decorate the windows of a local pâtisserie,  presented to a loved one,  or commemorating Labour Day, they are a symbol of springtime that adds even more brightness to the start of a beautiful month.

Fête de la Victoire (Victory in Europe Day/Armistice Day)
On May 8th, 1945, the Allies of World War II accepted the surrender of Germany’s armed forces, which meant that the war had finally ended. Eight years later, the day was officially declared a national holiday in France. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to encourage reconciliation between France and Germany, President Charles de Gaulle decided to take away the day’s holiday status. The cancellation remained in effect for several decades until the restoration of the holiday in 1981 by Francois Mitterand. Luckily for the French, the Fête de la Victoire seems to be here to stay which means that only a week after celebrating the Fête du Travail, workers and students are able to enjoy another day of leisure.

Ascension (Ascension Day)
Whether or not you consider yourself religious, the 40th day after Easter is marked on French calendars as a holiday to celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. While this ecumenical feast is celebrated worldwide, not all countries designate it a day off. France, as you may have guessed, does. For Christians, the day marks an important historical time and is celebrated accordingly. For others, it is a time to enjoy the late May weather and celebrate the rapidly approaching summer season.

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