It’s the beginning of festival time in the UK, with Halloween, then Guy Fawkes Night, all leading towards Christmas and the New Year. If you’re moving to France, don’t worry, you won’t miss out – France has even more parties and festivals to get involved in, and plenty of fireworks!
France is blessed with many more Bank Holidays than the UK and the French love to put on a show. There are festivals right through the year, both national and local and whatever time of the year you plan to go, you will always find something to celebrate.
New Year’s Eve, or St. Sylvestre, is a huge celebration with a multi-course meal and yes, plenty of fireworks
Public holidays include New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Labour Day on 1st May, Ascension Day, VE Day, Whit Sunday and Monday all in May, Bastille Day in July, the Assumption of Mary in August, All Saint’s Day always on 1st November, Armistice Day on 11th November and Christmas Day. It makes me breathless just to write it all down!
The biggest celebration of the year takes place on 14th July, to celebrate the storming of the Bastille on that morning in 1789. Every town and village, even the tiniest hamlet, puts on a grand show for this special day, with a great community feel. There is often a big meal outdoors (it being the height of summer) with live music and dancing and a fabulous firework show. If you are planning on going to France in July be sure to book up your accommodation well in advance as everywhere fills up quickly.
One less well known national festival is the Fete de la Musique which takes place all over France on 21st June each year. This coincides with the summer solstice and you will find live music events everywhere and restaurants and bars giving free performances.
Charmingly, many of the festivals have a flower emblem, for example Lily of the Valley on May Day, Chrysanthemums on All Saints Day (Toussaints) on 1st November and poppies on Armistice Day. Interestingly, Armistice Day is always 11th November whereas in the UK we always make it the nearest Sunday to this date (the French thereby gain yet another Bank Holiday).
Christmas is celebrated traditionally on Christmas Eve when the big meal is normally served, although Christmas Day is always a holiday too. There are also plenty of Christmas markets – very much a European tradition – with people mingling in the cold air drinking hot wine, eating chestnuts and buying foods and trinkets for their Christmas tree. As for New Year’s Eve, or St. Sylvestre, this is a huge celebration with often a multi-course meal and yes, plenty of fireworks.
It seems like anything and everything is worth celebrating in France.
In the South of France many villages and towns put on a Feria in late April/beginning of May. Largely a Spanish tradition, the whole community comes out to celebrate, often with bulls running down the streets, gauchos on horseback, communal meals, dancing and again fireworks. Even our small village of little more than 2,000 people swells to around 20,000 during the Feria which is a fantastic spectacle.
Across the land you will find smaller festivals celebrating all sorts of food stuffs such as cherries, garlic, onions etc. This is one of the most charming idiosyncrasies that we have found in France. It seems like just about anything and everything is worth celebrating in France.
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