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When do the 2019 Christmas holidays begin in France?

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When do the 2019 Christmas holidays begin in France?
Photo: AFP
11:23 CET+01:00
French schoolchildren are probably already counting the days, while their parents may be planning road trips around heavy traffic - here's what you need to know about the Christmas holiday in France.

When do the schools break up?

School holidays officially start on Saturday, December 21st. Some French pupils have classes on Saturday mornings so they break up after class, while schools that do not work on a Saturday will finish after class on Friday, December 20th.

School holidays in France often vary depending on the education area 'zone' but Christmas is simple and the whole country has the same holiday. The kids get two weeks off and are back to class on Monday, January 6th, 2020.

How much time do employees get off?

Perhaps surprisingly for a country regarded as generous with holidays, French employees are not entitled to much time off at Christmas. Only December 25th is a public holiday, December 26th is classed as a normal working day. Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday this year so if your employer follows the letter of the law that is the only day you will get off. Likewise at New Year, only January 1st is a public holiday, which also falls on a Wednesday. 

In reality many people do get a bit more time off, some firms offer a half day working on December 24th and some people get an extra bonus day off if it is agreed in their conventions collectifs (collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers).

READ ALSO These are the days off work you are entitled to in France

When are the worst traffic days?

The French traffic site Bison Futé is not predicting any 'black' traffic days such as France sees at the beginning and end of the summer holidays.

The afternoon and evening of Friday, December 20th are both predicted to be busy, as will the whole of Saturday, December 21st, as the schools break up. However the traffic is only predicted to be difficile (difficult) not very difficult or extremely difficult (the highest rating).

Traffic is then predicted to get heavy again on the afternoon of the 24th, but all delays are predicted to be worse in the Paris area.

What's the weather going to be like?

After a fairly grim few weeks of rain, the long-term weather forecast for Christmas and New Year weeks is looking relatively good. Both weeks are listed as a mixture of sunshine and cloud, with temperatures in line with the seasonal averages.

And how do French people celebrate?

Christmas isn't as a big a thing in France as it is in the UK and USA, and although the French do celebrate, you will be unlikely to see several weeks of partying, eating and excessive spending around the season.

French families generally get together for a meal and presents on December 24th. Known as Le Reveillon, the big Christmas meal traditionally takes place late at night or in the early hours of December 25th, after midnight mass, although increasingly families are abandoning this rather impractical tradition.

That doesn't mean that here aren't lots more odd French Christmas traditions though - here are the 12 traditions that make a French Christmas (including the 'father slapper').

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