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When do the 2019 Christmas holidays begin in France?

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 2019 Christmas holidays begin in France?
Photo: AFP

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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For members


What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.