Museums, mothers and muguet: key dates to note in May in France

Dates of interest to put in your calendar for the next month 

Keep up to date with important cultural and practical events in May
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May 1 

Bank holiday Fête du travail

The first bank holiday of May is the Fête du travail. International Workers’ Day (also May Day or International Labour Day) commemorates workers’ demonstrations in Chicago in 1886 for an eight-hour working day, which took 30 more years to arrive in France. It became a paid bank holiday in 1948. The custom of giving muguet (lily of the valley) as a symbol of good luck to friends/family dates back centuries.

There are often marches and gatherings to celebrate workers’ rights on the day. 

Read more: Lily of the valley and workers’ rights: May 1 is special day in France

Gas price increase 

The organisation that regulates the price of gas (Commission de régulation de l’énergie) has announced that it will raise the benchmark price of gas by 1.4%. If you have a contract indexed to this benchmark price, it will rise by this percentage. 

May 1 and May 3 

Deadlines for European elections sign-up

May 1 is the deadline for EU nationals to sign up to vote online in the European elections in June. Signing up via the mairie closes on May 3.

May 6 and May 7 

Xi Jinping visits France on 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China 

President Emmanuel Macron will first host the president of China in Paris before taking him to the Hautes-Pyrénées the next day. They will discuss the wars in Ukraine and the Middle-East as well as scientific, cultural and commercial cooperation between their two countries. 

May 7 to May 11 


The Eurovision Song Contest takes place from May 7 to May 11. This year, the final will be held in Malmö, Sweden. You can listen to France’s entry here

May 8

Bank holiday VE Day

May 8 is the anniversary of Germany’s capitulation – considered the end of World War Two in Europe. It is a bank holiday observed by most European states, although not always on May 8. The official end of the war was September 2 when Japan capitulated. 

Arrival of the Olympic torch in France 

The Olympic torch will arrive in Marseille, which was once a Greek colony, on May 8. 

10,000 torch-bearers will then carry it across the country, arriving in Paris on July 26 during the Opening Ceremony of the Games. It will even be taken to overseas territories in the beginning of June. 

Read more: Olympic torch is lit and on its way: will it pass near you in France?

May 9 

Bank holiday Ascension Day

Ascension Day is a Christian holiday celebrated 40 days after Easter. It represents the last meeting of Jesus Christ and his disciples before he ascended into heaven. It is the third of four May bank holidays. 

Air controllers might strike over the bank holiday weekend, disrupting flights across the country, unless negotiations between the unions and France’s civil aviation authority are successful.  

Read more: French air unions hand in strike notice for May

May 10 

Concours Lépine

The prestigious Concours Lépine will be held at the 120th edition of the Foire de Paris on May 10. A competition that rewards useful inventions, it was the first to showcase the ballpoint pen, the steam iron and contact lenses. It is named after Louis Lépine, a police prefect, who founded it in 1901. 

May 14 to May 25 

Festival de Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival takes place from May 14. It previews and highlights films of all genres. It is one of the three big European festivals, alongside Venice and Berlin.

Members of the jury of the 77th edition, presided over by Greta Gerwig, include French actor and producer Omar Sy, American actress Lily Gladstone and French actress Eva Green.

May 15

Medical fee doubles

The fixed-rate participation fee for a medical appointment (participation forfaitaire) is to double from €1 to €2 from May 15.

Read more: Medical fees, eco-grants, gas prices: 5 changes this May in France

MaPrimeRénov’ changes 

From May 15, there are a number of changes to the MaPrimeRénov’ renovation scheme, namely making it easier for homeowners to get started and allowing just one energy-saving measure at a time.

Read more: France revamps energy renovation grants scheme to boost take-up

May 18 

Night of the Museum

May 18 marks the free European Night of the Museum event. Launched in 2005, around 3,400 museums across Europe, including 1,300 in France such as the Musée d'Orsay, will open their doors for a special exhibition the night of May 18, from nightfall to 01:00. 

May 20 

Bank holiday Pentecost Monday 

The final bank holiday of the month is Pentecost Monday, or Whit Monday, celebrated 10 days after Ascension Day. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles of Jesus. 

May 20 to June 9 

French Open Tennis

The second tennis grand slam of the year begins on May 20 in Paris at Roland-Garros, Paris. Novak Djokovic and Iga Świątek will attempt to defend their titles. 

May 21 

Senator debate ‘anti-Airbnb’ law

French senators are set to debate a so-called ‘anti-Airbnb’ law (officially ‘law aiming to remedy a lack of balance in the rental market’) which could yet again change the rules relating to taxation of short-term holiday rentals. 

May 21, May 23, May 30 and June 6

Income declaration deadlines 

The deadlines for declaring 2023 income are as follows: May 23 for departments 01 to 19, May 30 for departments 20 to 54 and June 6 for departments 55 to 976, with all deadlines at 23:59. For those using paper declarations, the deadline is May 21 for all departments. All French residents and non-residents with French income must declare.

May 25 and May 26

Bird counting weekend 

Homeowners are urged to count the birds that land in their garden for an hour during this weekend. 

The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) has information sheets on its website to help with identifying birds. 

You can report your findings by signing up on the Oiseaux des Jardins website.

May 26 

Fête des Mères

Mother’s Day will be celebrated on May 26 in France this year. It was celebrated on March 10 in the UK and will be celebrated May 12 in the US.

May 31

Fêtes des voisins

European Neighbours’ Day is celebrated on the last Friday of May. Founded in 1999 by Voisins Solidaires, it was estimated that 30 million people took part in around 50 countries. 

World No Tobacco Day

The WHO created the World No Tobacco Day in 1987 to encourage people not to smoke, to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and to inform people what they can do to protect future generations and themselves. 

Deadline for scholarship or accommodation applications 

The deadline for students or future students applying for a scholarship or accommodation for the start of the 2024 school year is May 31. Students must have filed their application, including any supporting documents, by this time. The Service Public warns that it may take time to gather these documents.