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Good Friday: Why are (most) French working today when the rest of Europe is off?

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Good Friday: Why are (most) French working today when the rest of Europe is off?
Photos: Easter Eggs/ Depositphotos and AFP
13:36 CEST+02:00
It's Good Friday and most people in Europe are enjoying the first day of a long Easter weekend...but that's not the case in France, or at least not everywhere.
As we were sitting at our desks at The Local France's offices in Paris this morning, we started wondering (in a slightly disgruntled fashion) why we were here while most of the rest of Europe (including all our colleagues) get a whole extra day off at the start of the Easter weekend.  
 
Because, while workers in most of Europe don't have to go to office on Good Friday, the day which marks the crucifixion of Jesus, today the French (or at least most of them) will have their noses to the grindstone like any other day.  
 
Now France is officially a secular country so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, but then many French public holidays are based on more obscure religious feast days including Ascension and Pentecost in May, Assumption in August and All Saints in November. Then there's Christmas Day of course.
 
So why are we working on Good Friday? Well this wasn't always the case.
 
The tradition of treating Good Friday as a normal work day didn't start until 1905 when the country officially became secular, dividing the Church from the state. 
 
From then on, unlike the rest of Europe, French workers have been forced to treat Good Friday, called Vendredi Saint in French, as a day just like any other.
 
 
The procession of Easter's Holy Thursday at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. Photo: AFP
 
But not all of France is feeling hard done by today.  
 
Much to the envy of most workers in France, those living in the eastern Alsace area, now part of the Grand Est region, do get a day off on Good Friday.
 
And the reason for this is Alsace's rather complicated history of switching hands between Germany and France. 
 
In 1871 Germany seized Alsace including most of the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin as well as most the department of Moselle in the region of Lorraine.
 
The territory wasn't returned to France until the end of the First World War in 1918. 
 
At that point citizens of the territory weren't exactly thrilled at the idea of losing the day off and simply refused to give it up...perhaps demonstrating a French side to their natures which hadn't been lost during all those the years of German rule.  
 
Their demands were met and the piece of legislation which makes the region an exception is known as the Concordat of Alsace-Moselle sealed the deal. 
 
So, instead of spending Good Friday at the office, the Alsatians will be celebrating the first day of the Easter holidays. 
 
And in fact, it is for this same reason that this region, that they are also the envy of the rest of France on St.Stephen's Day, also known as Boxing Day, when they get a day off like many other European countries.  Those living in the rest of France however have to return to work the day after Christmas.
 
Perhaps unsurprisingly there have been regular challenges to the Concordat, with many arguing that the region should have the same rules as the rest of the country. 
 
Although as Eric Sander, local law expert in the Grand Est capital, Strasbourg pointed out to France Bleu, there are unlikely to be any politicians willing to fight that particular battle. 
 
So, for now, it looks like the rest of France will just have to carry on feeling jealous. 
 
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