Armistice 2020: How will France mark November 11th this year?

Armistice Day in France is normally marked by a parade in Paris and events around the country, but with the nation under lockdown, this year will be different.

Armistice 2020: How will France mark November 11th this year?
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Photo: AFP

What does November 11th mark?

November 11th is Armistice Day, remembering the day that the guns fell silent and the First World War ended. Now it is a day to commemorate the dead of all wars.

Is it a public holiday?

Yes, November 11th is a public holiday across France, so on Wednesday schools, public administration offices and most businesses will close.

Supermarkets generally remain open and in large cities shops tend to open as well – at least the ones that are allowed to under the current lockdown rules.

The usual Armistice Day parades will not happen this year. Photo: AFP

How does France mark the day?

Normally there is a large military parade along the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris, and the French president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Most cities and small towns have their own parades and wreath-laying and across the country flags are flown and flowers laid on war memorials.

Because of the lockdown, however, this year will be different.

President Emmanuel Macron will still lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe, but he will be accompanied only by  “a very limited number of civil and military authorities” and the usual parade along the Champs Elysée will not take place. The ceremony will be broadcast on TV.

Elsewhere, wreath-laying ceremonies can take place, but only with a maximum of 10 people, all observing strict physical distancing. Members of the public will not be allowed to watch and veterans, who mostly fall into vulnerable groups such as the over 65s, will not be present.

Church bells will ring at 11am to mark the hour the First World War formally ended.

Also on Wednesday, the body of French writer and First World War veteran Maurice Genevoix will be inducted into the Panthéon – the highest honour available from the French state. The author, apparently a favourite of Macron's, died in 1980 at the age of 89, and much of his work deals with the lasting trauma of war. This ceremony will also be broadcast on French TV.

Are the other ways to mark the day?

French people often wear a bleuet (cornflower) in their buttonhole as an act of remembrance and Macron has encouraged those who can to make a donation online to the bleuet appeal, which supports those injured in war or in acts of terrorism. You can donate here.




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Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE