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The French holiday calendar for 2021

From the perspective of French public holidays, 2021 is a bad year - here's why.

The French holiday calendar for 2021
Photo: AFP

France is generous with its public holidays with most months having at least one.

In total there are 11 public holidays every year, apart from in Alsace-Lorraine where people get 13 days off for complicated historical reasons to do with wars and Germany – find out more here.

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

However there is one drawback to the French holiday calendar – all holidays are taken on the day they fall on that year, rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as is the case in some other countries.

This means that in France there are ‘good’ holiday years and ‘bad’ ones – and unfortunately 2021 is a bad one.

If a public holiday falls on a Monday or a Friday, it means a nice long weekend. If it falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday it means that people can faire le pont (do the bridge) or take one day of their annual holiday entitlement to create a nice four-day break.

But if the holiday falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then the holiday is lost.

In 2021 both of the May holidays – the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE day on May 8th – fall on a Saturday, which means no extra days off in May.

The religious festival of Assumption on August 15th falls on a Sunday.

But worst of all, Christmas also falls on a Saturday. December 25th is the only official holiday day over Christmas in France – December 24th and 26th are normal working days, although many companies do allow employees extra time off over this period – so that means no extra day off for Christmas.

There’s also not much opportunity to faire le pont as four holidays fall on either a Monday or a Friday.

Holidays that can be ‘bridged’ in 2021 are Ascension Day on Thursday, May 13th and Armistice Day on Thursday, November 11th.

There is only one holiday on a Wednesday – the fête nationale on July 14th – which means only one opportunity to faire le viaduc (do the viaduct) and take two days off the create a longer holiday.

Ironically, 2020 was a good year for holiday dates, although as it turned out we spent many of them stuck in our homes on lockdown.

Here is the full list of 2021 holidays in France

  • Friday, January 1st – New Year’s Day 
  • Monday, April 5th – Easter Monday
  • Saturday, May 1st – May Day
  • Saturday, May 8th – VE Day
  • Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
  • Monday, May 24th – Pentecost*
  • Wednesday, July 14th – Bastille Day
  • Sunday, August 15th – Assumption
  • Monday, November 1st – All Saints
  • Thursday, November 11th – Armistice Day
  • Saturday, December 25th – Christmas

* Pentecost is a curious holiday which was once a public holiday, then wasn’t and is now a holiday for some people depending on where they work.

READ ALSO Pentecost: The French public holiday when people work for free

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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier