Last year I learned about the Bridge Day here in France, or in French ‘faire le pont’ (to do the bridge). Unlike what it initially sounds like, it has nothing to do with celebrating bridges. It has to do with national holidays in France.
By Day or Date
For those of us from the USA and particularly the UK, generally national holidays fall on a Monday. The exceptions are when a specific date is applied to a holiday, like say 25th December or Veterans Day on the 11th November. (Unless, of course, when that specific date falls on a Monday.) The others, with a few exceptions, are usually a moveable feast and fall more into the category of 1st Monday in May, last Monday in August or 1st Monday in September depending on the holiday and country.
Except for the moveable feast of Easter holidays, France sticks very specifically to the former, in that holidays are date driven. Consequently national holidays can crop up on any day of the week. Unlike the UK, if a national holiday occurs on say a Sunday, Monday does not become a holiday also. However, if a holiday lands on say a Thursday then Friday becomes a Bridge Day.
What is a Bridge Day
A Bridge Day is when there is a day between a national holiday and the weekend. So for clarity, the holiday falls on Tuesday or Thursday. This then makes Monday or Friday a Bridge Day as it ‘bridges’ the time between holiday and weekend, extending it.
But what does one do with this day? Often and in general an employer gives the bridge day off work, rather than the employee taking it out of their holiday allotment. It is up to the employer to decide if they wish to offer this additional day, which can depend on the nature of the business.
Within the European Union France offers 11 public holidays a year, second and third to Belgium (13 days) and Finland (12 days) who have the highest. Though each year this does seem to change, with particular countries vying to stay on top.
And within the year May is the most looked forward to month for its 3 days: Labour Day (1st), Victory in Europe Day (8th) and Ascension Day (30th ). If you add in the potential of bridge days you can see why May is when the holiday season really gets underway in France.
How many is Enough
Life in France has a very good focus on the work life balance. Work, both employed and what is needed to do at home, are very strong priorities. Yet, they are equally offset by not just the national holidays but one of the highest allotment of personal holidays in Europe.
The Eu has declared a minimum of 20 paid personal holidays a year, but many countries offer more. In France it is typically 5 weeks off, or 25 days. And many of those days of course will be linked of course with Bridge Days to make the allotment go even further.
August gets a separate mention
And it would be remiss of me in talking about holidays in France not to mention August. Within the country it is well known, and getting better known outside of it, that there is a mass exodus of the French in this summer month. Many actually don’t leave the country, but simply head elsewhere within, but a good portion take the opportunity to relax somewhere else.
There is an argument, for and against, that August is the best time to visit Paris. For: because the city is much emptier of people. Against: as the city is made up only of tourists.
Those businesses that don’t cater to potential tourists will generally close through much of this month. Whilst those, particularly service industries, will generally take their break in September or January. Forewarned is better prepared should you plan on taking a holiday in France.