Do you have the French calendar reflex?

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1st of January, you open up the calendar and see when the next public holidays fall and on which days – thus knowing how long you will have to survive at work until you get more time off.

The average French worker gets six weeks paid leave every year. Since the introduction of the 35-hour week in February 2000, French workers have had more time off. With the 6 weeks statutory paid leave, time off in lieu thanks to the 35 hour week and national public holidays, the average French worker can now chalk up between 8 or 9 weeks « holiday ».

I bet that sounds a good deal to all you overworked Yanks who probably only get a couple of weeks paid leave per year.

Hey! This is France – we don’t work – we loll around all day eating gourmet meals, drinking wine and occasionally we might produce a few cars, a high-speed train, an Airbus, some perfume, champagne or a designer dress.

Ok, this is a thin time of year for public holidays, nothing now until Easter Monday on April 17th – unlike the Brits, we don’t do Good Friday.

Of course, no self-respecting Frenchman is going to work nearly four whole months without a day off. The next school holidays start in mid February – time to delve in to those valuable days of annual leave and take the family skiing – and this is what mot French workers will do – or at least those who can actually afford to a ski holiday for the family.

The French ain’t dumb; they have most of their public holidays when the decent weather kicks in. During May and early June there are no less than 4 official public holidays

May 1st – May Day

May 8th – Victory in Europe Day

May 25th – Ascension Day

June 6th – Whit Monday

All that holiday! There has to be a catch?

Here is the catch – in France we get the public holiday on the day it falls, so if May 1st falls on a weekday, everyone is happy. If it falls on a weekend – Oh Dear.

There is none of this British business of tagging on an extra day (or days) if public holidays fall on the weekend.

Imagine Christmas day falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day on a Sunday – under the British scheme of things, the following Monday and Tuesday will be public holidays. Not in France though. Christmas day is Sunday and the French don’t keep Boxing Day – so you get a one day Christmas, whereas the Brits get four days of revelry (some might say a one day Christmas is quite enough.)

So, let us look forward to May 2017. Both the May Day (May 1st) and VE Day (May 8th) holidays fall on a Monday this year – long weekends for everyone.

Ascension Day or Ascension Thursday (May 25th) – as the name suggests, always falls on a Thursday. Hooray another long weekend. French workers will once again dig into their leave days and take the Friday as a « bridging day » – a common practise in France to carry prolong public holidays through to the weekend.

Whitsun Monday (well obviously a Monday) falls on June 5th.

Now, seeing as all annual leave in France runs from May to May (Lord knows why), if you haven’t taken all your annual leave by the end of May, then you lose it, meaning that French workers will « use up » any untaken leave in May

So – workers with four or five days left may decide to take their days from May 1st through May 8th.

Monday May 1st – a public holiday. Four days of leave taken for Tuesday through Friday and then another public holiday on Monday May 8th. That’s actually a full six days off work with only four days leave used up.

There are of course those public holidays, which seem almost a waste – Bastille Day on July 14th and Assumption day on August 15th. No matter the day they fall, they always fall during the summer holidays, when everyone is on holiday. However iconic Bastille day may be, it might be better to shift it to another day in the year where it might make some real impact.

November is the next big holiday bonanza with two public holidays: All Saints’ Day on November 1st and Armistice Day on November 11th. This year All Saints’ falls on a Wednesday – a good opportunity to take a couple of those « bridging days » and make a long weekend of it, especially since November 1st is normally during the school autumn (fall) holidays. No so lucky for Armistice this year, which falls on a Saturday.

There is perhaps a valid argument to adapt the British model, where the public holiday is « given » the nearest Monday after the actual event – meaning we all get a long weekend – I suppose that Christmas and July 14 would be the exceptions were such a logic used, after all, December 25th falls when it does, but were it n a weekend, why not give the workers the following Monday as a holiday.

So there you are folks – French national holidays.

Do we get more or less than you lot?

As every year, the French will get 11 public holidays in 2017, two of which will fall on weekends (January 1st fell on a Sunday and Armistice Day will fall on a Saturday), meaning therefore that we only get 9 real « days off »

There are officially 12 public holidays on the UK calendar this year, however, taking into account regional variations (different bank Holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland) – UK residents will get 9 full national UK-wide public holidays.

In France too, we have regional variations. Lucky residents in Alsace, Lorraine and Mosel in Eastern France get Good Friday and Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day) added to their list – a hangover from that period from 1871 to 1918, when the east of France was a German territory. (A thorny and complex subject to explain in a later post.)

Happy Holidays folks (when the next ones come)

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