The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

May, the month of bridges

An explanation of the public holidays in France in May

pont de mai

May is usually considered a month full of public holidays in France, when little business gets done. There can be up to four:  1st of May Labour Day, 8th of May VE Day, Ascension and Pentecôte (Whit Monday), but some years as few as one.

cannes 8 mai

This seemingly odd situation comes about because French public holidays are taken on specific dates which if they happen to fall on a weekend, bad luck!  There are no days in lieu.  Add to this that Ascension and Pentecôte are both a certain number of days after Easter and as Easter changes date each year it needs to be early for Pentecôte to be in May.  Sometimes it's in June.  So some years you can get the 1st and 8th of May on a Sunday and Pentecôte in June leaving only Ascension, which is always on a Thursday, seeing as it comes 40 days after Easter Sunday.

muguet 1 mai

However, most Mays there are more than one and the French have a particular way of ensuring long weekends.  They "make the bridge".  This means if the holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday it is common to take off the Monday or Friday from work to make a 4 day weekend out of it.  This tradition is called "faire le pont" (make the bridge).  Some businesses actually insist their employees do this and close up for the 4 days including my older son's school.  His is the only school in the area that takes all the "ponts" much to the jealousy of his little brother who only gets Ascension.

mairie cannes

So what are all these holidays about?  The 1st of May is international labour day and people give each other lily of the valley.  To find out more about this take a look at the post dedicated to it here. The 8th of May is Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), marking the day the Allies accepted the German defeat in World War II.  It is remembered all over France with ceremonies at war memorials, wreaths laid and flags out on public buildings.  The photos here are all taken in Cannes.

Ascension du Seigneur François Denis

Ascension and Pentecôte are both Catholic holidays.  The Ascension holiday refers to when Jesus was taken up to Heaven in his resurrected body 40 days after the resurrection, illustrated above in a church stained glass window.  Pentecôte (Pentecost/Whitsun) commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples across the Christian faith.  Being on a Monday there is never a possibility of a "pont" but neither can it fall on a weekend, guaranteeing a 3 day weekend.

Victoire en Europe 8 mai

So that's it - May, the month of bridges.  From a business point of view, it's a fairly hopeless month, but for holidays and weekend travel breaks, it's great.  On the Côte d'Azur, May is also the month of the Monaco Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival, which makes it feel festive and really like the start of the summer season.  I love May!

Do you have more public holidays in one month than others where you are?  Do you have plans for a long weekend?  Do you/would you "take the bridge"?  I'd love to hear from you.

 

photo of stained glass window from WikimediaCommons

 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Sara | mumturnedmom Thursday, 04 June 2015

    Oh, I like the idea of a bridge day :) We are just about getting used to the different holidays here in the US, and I think we have about the same as the UK... What amuses me most is that Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September so clearly define 'summer' irrespective of what the weather is doing :) (A super late comment from #myexpatfamily, one of those months!)

  • Guest
    Rosie @eco-gites of Lenault Monday, 01 June 2015

    The boys didn't get Le Pont this year but should next when both the 1st and the 8th May fall on a weekend. They did however sneak in yet ANOTHER day off school when the teachers had a training day! Welcome to their first full week at school for far too long!

  • IntegratedExpat
    IntegratedExpat Friday, 22 May 2015

    I only heard of the term 'bridge day' recently, although I've been experiencing them for many years in the Netherlands. Here we also have the King's Day (Koningsdag) national holiday at the end of April (the 27th, unless that's a Sunday, when it changes to the 26th). Up until 2013 it was Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) on 30th, but the new king wanted it on his own birthday, so the date changed, confusing everyone. It's bad enough having to change the name, let alone the date. So we hop from holiday to holiday from Easter onwards, and it's all downhill from that time on for schools, what with school trips, sports days, preparation time for exams, the exams themselves as well as the public holidays Ascension Day + Friday, Pentecost (Whitsun) Monday and the entirely optional Liberation Day on May 5th. Sometimes it seems like my children are never at school. My husband, on the other hand, always seems to be away on public holidays because he gets sent to countries where they're not celebrating. At least we don't have the terrible weather that always seems to go together with bank holidays in England.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    Gosh that all sounds very complicated but I guess it's not so confusing if you're used to it. Bad luck that your husband is always away for the public holidays, sod's law!

  • PollyMixtures
    PollyMixtures Thursday, 21 May 2015

    We have tons of bank holidays here in Gibraltar, and funnily enough I think in Spain they have the same expression to "make a bridge" as they have a very similar habit when it comes to bank holidays! #myexpatfamily

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    I've learnt through the comments that France is not alone making the bridge which is interesting. I always thought it was such a typically French thing to do but clearly it's more wide spread than I realised.

  • Guest
    Nearly irish Saturday, 16 May 2015

    I work in a company in Ireland which deals a lot with French businesses, and I can tell you this month has been very quiet! I keep being told funny jokes about how the French don't do anything in May! I even had to explain to my Irish colleagues what the Ascension and Pentecôte were...which is kind of ironic for a country with such a strong catholic background... I have to say, I do miss the French bank holidays, there are not enough of them here!!! #ExpatLifeLinky

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    That is funny that you have to explain the Catholic holidays in a secular country (yes France is officially secular!) to a Catholic country!

  • Guest
    Amanda@ Expat Life Saturday, 16 May 2015

    May is not the most productive month in the Netherlands either what will all the days off..... great read. Thanks for linking to the #ExpatLifeLinky

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    So I've heard Amanda! Thanks for hosting the linky.

  • Guest
    http://Keri @ Baby Globetrotters Friday, 15 May 2015

    The French might of created the saying Faire Le Pont but the Arab world are the masters at applying it! We work off both the Hijri and Gregorian calendars here in the UAE, so school years and businesses run to Gregorian but all religious observances to Hijri. Not only that, but the date cannot be 'called' until the sighting of the moon, so most public holidays are announced last minute.

    If they fall next to a weekend it's clearly a long weekend, a day away, almost certainly an extra day off, if one or more days fall near one another, like Eid what the hey, let's take the whole week! For Government employees only. Labourers and private sector get a fraction of the leave, and schools and term dates - it's pot luck if reality adds up to any sort of published calendar!!

    Thanks for helping put a name to this phenomena! ~ Keri

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    Now that is complicated! And difficut to plan for. But fascinating to read about.

  • Guest
    clara@expatpartnersurvival.com Friday, 15 May 2015

    I have always thought there are too many holidays in May and not enough around October time. I know they have been talking about adding an extra bank holiday later in the year for a while but I don't think anything has come of it. Personally I think August 6th should always be a holiday to celebrate my birthday!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    Let's add October 8th as well then Clara!

  • Guest
    http://Seychellesmama Friday, 15 May 2015

    What an interesting read Phoebe, I'm so pleased you shared this for #myexpatfamily !!
    I love the making a bridge, such a fab idea (well less so for business owners perhaps but yay for employees!!!)
    In Seychelles there are A LOT of public holidays, and it sounds similar to France in that they fall on a particular day, tough luck if it's the weekend!!
    There's no official 'making a bridge' but many companies do that too....who doesn't love more time off!! June seems to be the busiest month for public holidays here!!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    Interesting to hear of another country that doesn't give days in lieu. Unfair I say!

  • Guest
    Ersatz Expat Thursday, 14 May 2015

    In Malaysia we just get the day (or the following Monday in lieu). In Kazakhstan they had what we from Europe found a rather unfair situation - often if a bank holiday fell on a weekday it would be taken as a bank holiday but the following Sunday would be declared a working day to make up for it meaning your next week was 6 days - brutal.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    Now that just isn't fair! As you say, that's brutal. Makes the French system seem pretty decent.

  • Guest
    Merlinda Thursday, 14 May 2015

    Its so nice to know that the Philippines and France share the same Labor day! I am learning of so many things from this post. #myexpatfamily

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    And I learnt something about the Philippines too!

  • Guest
    Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork Thursday, 14 May 2015

    Ha, it looks like the French are even better at "fare il ponte" than the Italians then! Here we just get the 1st of May as (rather strangely for a Catholic country, if you ask me) Ascension and Pentecost aren't days off. We do get 2 June though, which falls on a Tuesday this year so yes, we'll be making the bridge as both my husband's work place and my son's nursery will be shut.
    I have a love-hate relationship with the bridges, as I work freelance for international clients who usually don't have the same holidays, and it makes the childcare situation hard. Still, I do love the June one - it's a good one for going to the seaside for the first paddle of the year!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 27 May 2015

    I love the sound of "fare il ponte" I didn't realise the Italians had the same expression. Great to learn that about our nearest neighbouring country (where we often go for munch on bridge days!!)

  • Guest
    Lisa Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    This is fascinating Phoebe. I could say, with tongue in cheek, that the French often "faire le pont" when they strike on a Tuesday or Thursday too! We don't usually mark VE day in the UK but this year we have had massive celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary - and I think it would be good to do so every year. As for Ascension Day, a hundred years ago, my brother used to have the day off school and I didn't. I thought it grossly unfair!!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 14 May 2015

    Hmmm I think you could be right there with the bridge and strikes! My little son and you have sibling unfairness in common. Actually this year neither of them are off on Friday as the big son has moved up to lycée and they don't take the bridge. No jealousy this year!

  • Guest
    Girl Gone Gallic Monday, 11 May 2015

    I do love the month of May in France... Lots of time off :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    I love it too! Especially in the south it really heralds the beginning of summer.

  • Guest
    B2B Sunday, 10 May 2015

    Love the muguet. We were told by a Frenchman that May is the Emmental month as it is full of holes!Re days in lieu, I thought they did get the Monday off if the bank holiday fell on a Sunday, just not the Saturday. Or maybe that's only for specific holidays? But I could be completely wrong.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    I've never heard that saying about emmental, but it's a good one! As for in lieu, no there really are never any days in lieu. Even if Christmas falls on a Sunday, you're back to work on the Monday, (as Boxing Day isn't a holiday here either!) Some (bad) years Christmas Day and New Years Day fall on a Sunday and that's a bit of a shock to the system if you can't get extra days off for annual leave. Other years there are plenty of holidays. Swings and roundabouts I guess...

  • Guest
    Christy Swagerty Friday, 08 May 2015

    We LOVE the constant holidays in France! My husband and I both feel like we have won the lottery living in Europe, where so many holidays make for wonderful travel opportunities! We also feel like we have been able to add years to our lives by working SO MUCH LESS and yet somehow having a much higher quality of life here! Thanks for explaining all of the holidays! Il faut profiter! :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Absoluement il faut profiter! Good attitude Christy. I love how you're enjoying french lifestyle so much.

  • Guest
    Mrs Tubbs Thursday, 07 May 2015

    What a brilliant idea! I think the UK should adopt it ...! #allaboutfrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Most years UK actually gets more days off believe it or not as those "pont" days often have to be taken as annual leave and schools don't take them off either.

  • Guest
    Betty Carlson Thursday, 07 May 2015

    Reading this in 2015, isn't this month of May one of the best? I wonder how many years have the 1st and the 8th on a Friday or Monday PLUS Pentecost Monday included in the month?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    yes it's a good year this year.

  • Guest
    Emily Thursday, 07 May 2015

    I realise that I've been here a while because this year I have been grumbling about not having enough time to work...

  • Guest
    kim Thursday, 07 May 2015

    Great post thanks Phoebe. It does seem like May is one holiday after another but then my son's school works longer to make up for the ponts. I'm popping in from #Allaboutfrance.

  • Guest
    Richard Saturday, 24 May 2014

    Brits who moan about our relative shortage of public holidays (8, as opposed to a theoretical 11 or more in most other members of the EU) never seem to take into account the nugatoriness of the European ones that fall on a weekend, which reduces their number in practice to only 7 or 8. I used to live and work in communist Eastern Europe, where public holidays that fell on a weekday were nullified by the automatic cancellation of the following "free" Saturday!

  • Guest
    Corinne Tuesday, 20 May 2014

    Phoebe, It's the same in Germany and yes there have been a few this month. I never seem to know all the German holidays, at least not until I'm driving to work and the traffic is light!

  • Guest
    Catherine Tuesday, 13 May 2014

    Bank holidays are good!

  • Guest
    http://http:/Mummy Glitzer Tuesday, 13 May 2014

    Whilst I like the idea of more bank holidays, I've struggled as it is with the late Easter then May Day here; I am only just getting back into routine, only for there to be another bank holiday in a couple of weeks! I think I'd be keen to take the bridge as well although it is such a shame that you don't get the bank holiday in lieu if it falls on a weekend.

  • Guest
    Shell Louise Tuesday, 13 May 2014

    I'd love the four day weekends and would definitely take the bridge! I'm glad we don't lose our bank holidays if they fall on a weekend.

  • Californian Mum in London
    Californian Mum in London Monday, 12 May 2014

    I wish we could make the bridge in the UK. Three-day weekends are nice, but four-day weekends are even better!

  • Guest
    Debbie Monday, 12 May 2014

    What a great post! It's so interesting to learn about other countries and cultures- and wonderful that France holds onto the meaning of the holidays.
    I love the idea of the bridge- and at least your younger son will get to benefit in due course (far better than it being the other way round and losing it!).

  • Guest
    Mummy of two Monday, 12 May 2014

    Really informative post! How mean not getting the bank holidays if they fall at a weekend!

  • Guest
    Michelle Monday, 12 May 2014

    Stunning photos! I love having bank holidays and the girls do it, as an extra day off school :)

  • Guest
    thereandbackagainamotherstale Monday, 12 May 2014

    Lovely post and gorgeous photos, quite jealous as my lily of the valley hasn't yet flowered!

  • Guest
    Boo Roo and Tigger Too Monday, 12 May 2014

    Such a shame about not getting a day in lieu if a holiday falls on a weekend, one thing I love about the UK is we make sure we get our bank holidays

  • Guest
    The Mad HOuse Monday, 12 May 2014

    I love this, learning about other countries and cultures. I never know that about the holidays landing on a weekend!

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