Long May Weekends in France

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Traveling to France in May can be a bit complicated. We have many holidays, and many extended weekends since the French “font le pont” – they will take an extra day off when there is only one day separating a holiday from a weekend, and therefore have a “long weekend”. And there are many holidays in May in France.

In France:

  • May 1st is Labor Day (la fête du travail)
  • May 8th is the end of WWII
  • In May, we have a Christian holiday, l’Ascension (this year the 25th)
  • and  another Christian holiday” la Pentecôte” is sometimes in May (but this year it’s June 4th!)

What Does “Faire le Pont” Mean in French?

Now all these wouldn’t be too bad if the French didn’t have this habit of “faire le pont” – literally “to do the bridge.” This means that when a holiday is on a Tuesday or a Thursday, the day which links over to the the weekend is also off for the employees (who still get paid).

So for example, this year, Leyla’s (our 12 year old daughter) school will be closed on Thursday the 25th (Ascension) and also Friday the 26th – because it “forms a bridge” to the weekend. “L’école de Leyla fait le pont” – Leyla’s school will have a 4 day break (the 25th, the 26th, and then the weekend the 27th and the 28th).

ponts

“how much does it cost? (to the economy)
“A bag of coal, a pack of beer, lamb sausages, skewers…”
Image credits: Ouest France

Watch Out For Extended May Weekends in France

This affects schools (read more about the French school system here) and other institutions including banks, museums, and some supermarkets…

And of course it has a tremendous influence on the price of train tickets and the traffic on the roads. You can count on major traffic jams.

This year, it’s not too bad: only one long weekend. But sometimes most weekends in May end up being long ones…

Something to be aware of when planning your trip to France!

 

may in france traditions holiday lily of the valley

May 1st : Labor Day, May Day and Lily-of-the-valley day in France

May 1st is Labor Day in France. So it’s a holiday, and people don’t work and most shops are closed. Except florists!

On May 1st, it’s the tradition to give each other “un brin de muguet” (a sprig of lily-of-the-valley, pronounce it “mu gay”) for luck. Well, most people give a bunch, a small bouquet, or a live plant that you can then plant in your garden. It’s now fashionable to also mix a couple of stands of lily-of-the-valley with a rose…

When I was much younger, kids would go pick some in the woods, and sell them on the streets. I have not seen it done in a long time, but seeing wild lily-of-the-valley is not uncommon in France. If you let it, it would take over your garden!

More info about lily-ot-the-valley and this French tradition on wikipedia (in French)

May in France Vocabulary

  • Le mois de mai – May, pronounced just like “mais” (but) in French
  • Le muguet – lily-of-the-valley (pronounced “mu gay”)
  • Un brin de muguet- a twig, a sprig of lily-of-the-valley
  • Un bouquet de muguet– a bouquet, a bunch of lily-of-the-valley
  • Un pot de muguet- a pot of lily-of-the-valley
  • Offrir – to give as a gift
  • Offrir du muguet – to give some lily-of-the-valley
  • Un porte-bonheur – a good luck charm
  • Joyeux Premier Mai – Happy May Day
  • Joyeuse fête du travail – Happy Labor Day

And of course, another big celebration in May in France is Mother’s day!

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