Ascension Day = Holiday in France

Yesterday was a public holiday in France. When I was told about this around two weeks ago, my first reaction was “Yee haw, a vacation day!” Then it dawned on me that France has a day off in June on a Thursday.  So, I asked my colleagues what the heck was happening on June 2nd that was allowing France to have a day off. Their reply was, “Ascension Day, of course”. Just like that.

Ascension Day?? Are you kidding?? It that, like, a real holiday?? I responded just that way, but with the slow motion of words, louder and with an upswing in the voice on the last word and with a wrinkled forehead since I was in question of if this was real or they were putting me on.

They assured me it was the real thing.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but Ascension Day is a religious day for Catholics (other religions, as well, but predominately Catholics celebrate it as a holy day). It represents the ascension of Christ into heaven after he rose from the dead.

I know that Catholicism is the most predominant religion in France. In fact, it is for most of Europe. Here’s the thing, France is supposed to be a country of total separation of church and state. If that is so, why are businesses and all government institutions closed on that day?  I was super confused. France is making some rules here and not following them. Why?

Again, I went to my colleagues to ask, “What is the deal”. They said that in this day and age France recognizes it as a public holiday because of its historical significance. It was a day celebrated long ago when religion was deeply rooted in France and the practice of religion was common place. Since it was a day of “non work” for such a long time in history, France continues in that tradition.

Well, okay. I guess they have their reasons and I am not about to diss on history or anything.

In any case, I got the day off. I am not Catholic, but thanks to the historical importance of this religion I was able to reap the benefits.

One thing is a bummer, though. I had to go back to work on Friday. Just for that one day. Can you believe it? I know for sure that we were the only ones in our building that day. Everyone else was like, “Why go to work for just one day? Let’s make it a four day weekend. We’re in France. We can do that!”

You know what I say to that?




About backyardprovence

I was finally able to realized my dream of living in France when I moved here in 2010. I love to read,I love history and road trips. I want to be doing anything outside in the fresh air. I want to have an entire room devoted to a personal library.

Posted on June 3, 2011, in French Daily and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. They often call May the “mois des ponts” because everybody “makes the bridge” between the holiday and the weekend. I remember it feeling like there were more holidays than work days. 🙂 Now that I work full-time and am no longer a student (as I was when I lived in France), I’m completely jealous of their work/life balance. Lucky you!

    • Yup- you got it 🙂 Les ponts are exactly the words that were given to me regarding the day between the holiday and the weekend. Coming from the states and not having too many vacation days when I lived there, I am absolutely thrilled that I get to take advantage of all the public holidays. I definitely consider myself lucky, even if I don’t get to participate in “le pont”. Holidays and France~~I’m ready! Bring ’em on!

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