Daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on Friday that President Sarkozy issued his instructions at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“You should go away for the minimum amount of time and as close as possible [to Paris] and stay 100 percent ready during the holidays,” the newspaper reported him as saying.
Ministers seem to be largely obeying the edict, with most claiming they will shuttle between Paris and their constituency homes.
With both Christmas and New Year falling on weekends this year there are no public holidays in France at all during the holiday season.
The president himself will stay close to Paris by staying in his official residence of La Lanterne in the western suburb of Versailles.
Prime minister Francois Fillon will “shuttle backwards and forwards between Paris and La Sarthe,” where he has his constituency, according to an official spokesman.
Ministers have been busy as the country grapples with the eurozone crisis, a series of airport strikes and the ongoing threat to the country’s triple A rating.
2012 is a critical year with presidential elections due to take place in late April and parliamentary elections shortly afterwards. President Sarkozy currently trails his leading opponent in the polls, Socialist Francois Hollande.
One minister told the newspaper that such a demand from the president was only to be expected.
“French people are worried,” said Edouard Courtial, the minister for French people abroad. “We have fought to get here and we shouldn’t complain.”
He himself will take “four days of recuperation in Auvergne” where he plans to “sleep, read, go for walks with my children and watch TV.”
Certain ministers will need to be on duty over the festive period.
Interior minister Claude Guéant will spend New Year’s Eve monitoring events with police officers. Health minister Xavier Bertrand will visit hospitals at the same time.
Most ministers appeared to be sticking to their boss’s decree, although occasional bursts of defiance were in evidence.
According to colleagues, one minister plans to “take off for Dubai on Wednesday and spend ten days there with his family.” Perhaps to help him keep his job, Le Figaro chose not to name the sun-seeking rebel.