For members


What are the rules of having a BBQ in France?

As we head into summer BBQ season is approaching, but can you just light your charcoal and go in France, or are there rules to grilling?

What are the rules of having a BBQ in France?

The taste of barbecued food is something that we can’t get enough of, but having a BBQ does come with some problems especially if you live in a built-up area.

Helpfully, the French government releases seasonal BBQ advice.

READ ALSO The things you should NEVER do when dining in France

It says that there is no general BBQ law in France but potential grillers – especially those who live in towns and cities – should check several codes first.

The first is the rental contract for your home, some have clauses forbidding BBQs.

Then there’s the rules of the building if you live in an apartment block – some forbid BBQs and some restrict them to certain areas.

Finally there could be a town or municipal decree.

Some areas – especially if there is a drought – will ban or restrict BBQs to avoid the danger of starting wildfires. Some clauses restrict charcoal BBQs and allow gas ones, and others restrict barbecuing to certain times. Check with your local mairie to see if there are restrictions where you live.

If you don’t have an outside space where you live, you could head to the park. Some parks offer BBQ spaces with permanent brick structures to do your grilling on. However, if these are offered then cooking must be kept to this area of the park only – it’s not an open invitation to light up wherever you feel like.

As in many countries, lighting a BBQ on moorland on grassland is strictly forbidden, because of the risk of starting wildfires.

So that’s trouble with the authorities covered, but what about trouble with the neighbours?

Well this appears to be a fairly common problem in France, so the government has released a guide on the various steps you should take if you are having a dispute with a neighbour over a BBQ.

Essentially the advice is to try and resolve it with a friendly conversation if possible, but if not there are various steps you can take up to and including legal action.

Member comments

  1. This erroneous article is about grilling. Grilling has absolutely nothing to do with “de la barbe à la queue” (BBQ). Grilling is hot and fast; BBQ is low, slow and smokey, lasting from 12-hours to 24-hours and more. Grilling is fine but conflating the two is ignorant and insulting to the dedicated and passionate people that practice the fine art of “de la barbe à la queue.”

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For members


Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

You might not have thought about it too much as you enjoyed an extra day off work, but it is perhaps unexpected that France - proudly secular since 1905 - has so many public holidays based around Catholic festivals.

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Reader question: Why does France have Catholic holidays like Ascension, Assumption and Toussaints? I thought it was supposed to be a secular republic?

The French Republic is very proud of its secular principles but yet as some readers observed, many public holidays are linked to Catholic celebrations, a reminder of its religious history.

Roughly half of the public holidays in France represent Catholic events: Easter, Ascension (May 26th), Assumption (August 15th), Pentecost (for some people), All Saints’ day (November 1st) and of course Christmas.

If you live in Alsace-Moselle (formerly Alsace-Lorraine) you get two extra holidays, both religious ones – Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and St Stephen’s Day (December 26th) – more on why that is later.

France’s secular stance takes its roots in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 but was formally codified into law in 1905. 

France does not recognise, pay or subsidise any religion. So French local and national governments are not allowed to finance churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, and religious symbolism is not allowed in State buildings or for representatives of the State.

It is these rules that mean that, for example, French primary schools don’t perform nativity plays at Christmas and French female police officers are not permitted to wear the Muslim headscarf while on duty.

EXPLAINED What does France’s secularism really mean?

The flip side of this is that freedom of worship is also protected in the 1905 law, and everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they choose in their private life.

The only exception to the secular rules are the three departments of Alsace-Moselle. When the 1905 law was passed the region was part of Germany and only became French again at the end of World War I. As part of the compromise agreed, today bishops, priests, rabbis and pastors have the status of civil servants and the state pays for the maintenance of religious buildings. Religious education in public schools is also preserved.

So all that seems to pretty strongly suggest that Catholic festivals should play no part in France’s holiday calendar and only the secular events – such as the Fête nationale on July 14th or VE Day on May 8th – should remain.

However, by the time secularism was formally codified into law in 1905 there was already a fairly fixed calendar of holidays and festivals – although this had already been slimmed down under the Napoleonic government in 1802 – and suddenly axing popular festivals was likely to go down pretty badly with the population at large.

Essentially then, this was a pragmatic compromise between tradition and secularism and over the years politicians have been understandably reluctant to tell the French they must lose their holidays.

But it’s noticeable that all the religious festivals in the calendar are Christian ones, and while this may reflect France’s history it’s not so representative of the current demographics, where an estimated 10 percent of the population either practice the Muslim faith or have a Muslim family background.

So could we see a scenario when we knock Ascension on the head but make Eid a public holiday?

It’s theoretically possible – in 2015 the French parliament voted through an amendment that would allow the départments of France’s Overseas Territories (Martinique, Gaudeloupe, Mayotte, Réunion and French Guiana) to switch a Catholic bank holiday for another religious celebration to suit different faiths in the local population.

However none of the overseas départements has yet made that move. 

A fresh amendment would be required to make the same move in mainland France, and there appears to be little political appetite for that at present.

What are France’s public holidays? 

  • January 1st: New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Monday, only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
  • Easter Monday (movable date)
  • May 1st: May Day
  • May 8th: VE Day
  • May 26th: Ascension Day
  • Pentecost (movable date and no longer an official holiday)
  • July 14th – Bastille Day
  • August 15th – Assumption
  • November 1st – All Saints
  • November 11th – Armistice Day
  • December 25th – Christmas
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)