Ms Favier-Townsend was kind enough to give as a breakdown of the major events that take place in France all year long! Given the length of this list, it deserves a post of its own! Here goes…
• Le jour de l’an, Jan 1st (New Year’s Day): Like in many other countries, the French celebrate this day with a feast and lots of champagne! In France, instead of sending Christmas cards, it is tradition to send New Year’s cards to people you do not see regularly to give news about the happenings of the year…
• Epiphany, Jan 6th: This is a Christian festival celebrating the day the wise men arrived in Bethlehem. It is celebrated with a cake known as la galette de rois. The cakes usually have two or more miniature characters in it and whoever gets a piece with a character in it becomes the king or queen for the day (crown included)! It is therefore a very important occasion for the kids…
• Paris Fashion Week: This is a world renowned event, seen as the best of the best! It is held in the Louvre, with as many as 20 shows per day! Of course these shows are almost IMPOSSIBLE to get in but apparently, if a show is not completely packed, they let in students, press, and well-dressed bystanders. Occasionally, VIPs may also give out their tickets to bystanders. 😉 The Haute Couture shows run from Jan 21st – 24th, while the Ready-to-Wear shows are from Feb 26th- Mar 6th….
• International Comic Strip Festival, Jan 31st – Feb 3rd: This is the largest comic festival in Europe, held annually in Angouleme, France. More than 200,000 guests attend the festival, which is spread over different locations around the town, each year…
• Winter Holiday: This takes place for about 1-2weeks between Feb 11th and Mar 12th, depending on what zone you are in. Lyon is in Zone A thus for schools the holiday is on Feb 23rd- Mar 10th, while for universities it is from Feb 23rd- Mar 3rd. During this time, the weather is good and families plan ski trips to enjoy the snow together….
• Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th: Just like most other countries, this day is celebrated with enthusiasm in France! Flowers, chocolates, dinners….
• Nice Carnival, Feb 15th – Mar 6th: This is a major, 2-week carnival event that attracts over 1 million visitors each year! Would definitely love to go for this!
• Giboulees de Mars (Spring): This is like April showers… when we lose one hour of sleep, on Mar 30th/31st, as the clocks go forward for summer time… Great time to go skiing! 🙂
• April Fool’s Day (poisson d’avril), Apr 1st: All sorts of jokes take place all day here. The kids especially enjoy it as they make cardboard fish and try to tag people’s backs with them without them noticing. Don’t be surprised if you walk around the streets on this day and see lots of people with fish on their backs! 🙂
• School Holidays…again..: This time it’s on Apr 21st- May 6th for schools and Apr 21st- 28th for universities…
• Easter: Celebrated with a lot of food and drink, as well as Easter eggs and bells for the kids! There is also a bank holiday on Easter Sunday (Mar 30th) and Monday…
• Fete du Travail (Labour Day), May 1st: This is a paid holiday for all workers in France. Friends and family get together on this day and exchange bunches of Lilly of the Valley to bring good luck. On a side note, it is especially lucky if an official holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday because people do not work on the Monday or the Friday, respectively. This is known as Faire le Pont….
• Festival nuits sonores, May 7th – 12th: This is a famous electronic music festival held in over 60 locations in Lyon, featuring both local and international artists… I’m extremely jealous I won’t be here this year for it… but I’ll be back for sure!
• WWII Victory Day, May 8th: This is the anniversary of the day Charles de Gaulle announced the end of this World War…
• Cannes Film Festival, May 15th- 26th: Again, another world-renowned event where the international film industry descends upon Cannes, transforming it from a quiet seaside to the only focus of the industry. It is impossible to get in, with only very limited access for educational groups…
• Ascension Thursday: This public holiday, as the name suggests, always falls on a Thursday!! This means that the French Faire le Pont each year….
• Monaco Grand Prix, May 23rd – 26th: This is a Formula One race held annually in Monaco on a course said to be “one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One”. Of course, being Monaco, it is filled with glam and prestige! A definite go-to if you are into racing….
• Official start of summer, Jun 20th….
• Fete de la Musique, Jun 21st: This is an annual world-wide music festival where musicians, both amateur and professional, perform for free in various public places. It serves not only as great entertainment for the whole family, but also as a platform for musicians to promote their music. It is also used to encourage music institutions such as operas to perform outside their usual venues….
• School Holidays….
• Tour de France, Jun 29th – July 21st: 2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France, another world-renowned event! The Tour will begin in Corsica, and will pass through LYON this year on July 13th!!!
• Bastille Day, July 14th: This day celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. Lots of festivities are held along Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris, and the President hosts a garden party at the Palais de l’Élysée.
• Everything shuts down… well mostly everything: Traditionally, people close their shops and businesses to go on August holidays.
• La rentrée: Everyone goes back to school/work from the holidays
• Mid-term holidays for schools….
• Halloween, 0ct 31st: Halloween was not traditionally celebrated in France however, after a lot of Western influence people have started dressing up and celebrating the day here too…
• All Saints Day, Nov 1st: On this day it is tradition to put flowers, mainly chrysanthemums, on graves. Remember, NEVER give this flower as a gift here….
• Remembrance Day, Nov 11th: Commemorating the end of WWI…
• Le Beaujolais Nouveau Day, 3rd Thurs in Nov: This day features the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a red wine, into the market. This used to be a very celebrated day, with people rushing to get the first bottle at 12.01am on the Thursday…
• Saint Catherine Day, Nov 25th: This day commemorates the martyrdom of St. Catherine. Traditionally, all girls who were not married by 25 would send each other postcards and wear hats all day long to show they were still single… Today, single ladies wear crazy hats for fun on this day…
• Festival of Lights, Dec 8th: This festival, held in Lyon, expresses gratitude toward the Virgin Mary. Every household places candles along their windows, while all public buildings are lit up in all sorts of AMAZING ways… What started as a one-day event is now celebrated over 3-4days, where over 4 million visitors from all over the world come to Lyon to view this spectacle! This is truly a must-see event however, you must have pre-planned accommodation as this is impossible to find or extremely expensive at this time of year…
• La Veille de Noel, Dec 24th: Usually celebrated with a feast – le Réveillon de Noel….
• Le Jour de Noel, Dec 25th: This day is set aside for family events… it would be unthinkable to go out with friends…
• La Saint Sylvestre, Dec 31st: Usually celebrated with a feast with family and friends or at a soirée dansante (ball). At midnight, people kiss under the mistletoe! 🙂
Of course I’m sure there are lots of other events that take place throughout the year, but I found that this was a great list to start with!:)