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When do France’s May bank holidays fall this year?

If you want to avoid the holiday crowds, here’s our guide to when most French workers are off next month

There are four bank holidays in May this year Pic: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock

France has a number of bank holidays (jours fériés) throughout the year, but it enjoys a glut of them in May. 

In a normal year, France has 11 which is high compared to a number of countries (there are eight, for example, in the UK).

However, a key point to note with French bank holidays is that there is little flexibility on when they fall.

So, if the holiday is on a weekend, then you wave goodbye to a day off work. 

Here we look at the bank holidays in France over the coming weeks. 

Easter Monday: Monday, April 10

France only has one bank holiday for Easter - they do not celebrate Good Friday with a jour ferié

They do, however, mark Easter Monday.

Labour Day (Fête du Travail): Monday, May 1

In May, the French have almost one bank holiday per week! 

The first falls on Monday, May 1, and marks Fête du Travail, which sees marches and demonstrations to celebrate workers and campaign for better rights. 

You might see pavement stalls selling the white Lily of the Valley (Muguet), offered between family and friends to bring luck.

Victory in Europe Day (Fête de la Victoire): Monday, May 8

A week after Labour Day, is another bank holiday, this time to mark the victory of Allied forces over Nazi Germany and the end of World War Two in Europe.

Ascension: Thursday, May 18

This is France’s first religious holiday of the month. Forty days on from Easter, it marks the day Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven before his disciples.

Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte): Monday, May 29

The final bank holiday in May takes place on Monday, May 29 to celebrate Lundi de Pentecôte (Whit Monday), which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit seven weeks after Easter. 

However, this holiday is a little different from the others.

Its status was changed in the aftermath of August 2003 when around 15,000 mainly elderly people died in France due to a massive heatwave.

Temperatures soared to 42C just after most government departments, including health and social services, had shut or slowed down for the summer holidays. Some of the victims' bodies were only found when neighbours returned from holiday. 

After the tragedy, the then-government suffered heavy losses in regional elections and lots of ministers, including the health minister at the time, were sacked.  

It led to a new law being voted through in 2004, which essentially saw the end of the Lundi de Pentecôte public holiday. Instead, the wages and payroll taxes for this day were used to fund a budget to improve care for the elderly in the community. 

This budget allows for mairies to maintain a list of vulnerable people who should be contacted or visited during a heatwave, as well as money for old people’s homes to provide at least one air-conditioned living space. 

You will now find no reference to Lundi de Pentecôte in labour law books, having been removed in 2008, with this day off now negotiated between employers and employees and referred to as journée de solidarité (day of solidarity). 

When the official holiday was first done away with, many French people simply refused to go to work on May 29.

As a result many businesses now have the date booked in as either compulsory holiday or have arrangements in place such as working two extra minutes on other days throughout the year to compensate for lost time on May 29. 

Read also: Lundi de Pentecôte: a holiday in France like no other

Can we ‘faire le pont’ in May? 

Faire le pont (make the bridge) is what the French do to make the most of a bank holiday.

If the jour ferié falls close to a weekend, they often take an extra day of paid leave and make a ‘bridge’ between the bank holiday and the weekend. 

For example, this year, since Thursday, May 18 is a bank holiday, you could take off Friday, May 19, and get yourself a nice four-day weekend.  

Related articles

MAP: French school holidays 2023-24 by region

Reminder: The dates of France's 2023 holidays and days off

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