What are the Holidays and Celebrations in France?


In France, we know how to celebrate life in many occasions! Whether you are visiting Paris or the Province, holidays and celebrations in France will definitely bring an ‘exotic taste’ to your stay. Did you know that the French annual calendar is punctuated with eleven bank holidays? As well as a number of religious, civil and commemorative celebrations? I hope this article will give you some insights about what to expect on your next travel to France!

Holidays and Celebrations in France

Holidays and celebrations in France play an integral part of the country’s popular culture.

Public Holidays in France

The French observe 11 official public holidays.

5 of them are civil holidays:

6 public holidays have a religious origin based on the Catholic faith:

In addition, people living in the two départements of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin in Alsace and in the Lorraine département of Moselle enjoy two additional public holidays:

  • Good Friday (Vendredi Saint), and
  • St. Stephen’s Day (Saint-Etienne – known as Boxing Day in English-speaking countries).

This is due to historical reasons when the three départements were returned to France in 1918. 

Celebrations in France


Every season has its share of celebrations and festivals.

Holidays and Celebrations in France: local events

Some celebrations in France are local events, including sporting events. A few examples:


School Holidays in France

Back to School La Rentrée © French Moments

Our daughter’s “Rentrée” © French Moments

The school year in France stretches from “La Rentrée” (coming back to school) to “Les Grandes Vacances” (Summer recess).

School holidays (les vacances d’été) play an important part in the tourism industry in France.

The dates are set by the Ministry of Education (Ministère de l’Éducation nationale). They vary depending on the zones the schools are located.

There are three school zones in France. They are not contiguous in order to facilitate the access to sport resorts and tourist sites.

Therefore, the winter and spring holidays don’t take place at the same time whether a school is based in Paris, Strasbourg or Toulouse. Thus relieving the pressure on skiing and Mediterranean resorts.

The zones gather regional education authorities known as “académies” in French.

Académies of France © Chabe01 - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Académies of France © Chabe01 – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

  • Zone A includes the “académies” of Dijon, Besançon, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Lyon, Poitiers, Limoges, and Bordeaux.
  • then Zone B includes the “académies” of Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Nancy-Metz, Lille, Limoges, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rouen and Strasbourg.
  • and Zone C includes the “académies” of Toulouse, Montpellier, Créteil, Paris and Versailles.

Corsica and the Overseas départements and territories of France apply different school holidays times. Like in Australia and New Zealand, the school year in the French territories of New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna starts in late January and finishes early December.

French Motto on School Facade © French Moments

A school in Paris © French Moments

Five periods of holidays

The French school calendar includes five periods of holidays:

  • The Summer holidays are the longest and the most awaited by pupils and teachers. The two-month break starts in the beginning of July and ends early September.
  • Autumn holidays or All Saints holidays (les vacances d’automne or de la Toussaint) last two weeks around the beginning of November.
  • Christmas holidays (les vacances de Noël or de fin d’année) last two weeks and include Christmas and New Year’s Day.
  • Winter holidays (les vacances d’hiver) are two weeks long and take place between the second week of February and the first week of March.
  • Spring holidays (les vacances de printemps or de Pâques) do not always encompass Easter. They take place between the second week of April and the first week of May.

Holidays and Celebrations in France: the Four Seasons

France is situated in the Northern Hemisphere. As its fellow European neighbouring nations, it goes through a cycle of four distinctive seasons:

  • Springle printemps
  • Summerl’été
  • Autumnl’automne
  • Winterl’hiver

Click on the images below to reach our dedicated pages on the seasons of France:

Spring – le printemps

The Eiffel Tower in Spring © French Moments


Summer – l’été

The St. Sixte chapel in Eygalières © French Moments


Autumn – l’automne

Paris in Autumn © French Moments


Winter – l’hiver

The village of Granier in Winter © French Moments


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Holidays and Celebrations in France © French Moments

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management.

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