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How does France’s public holiday count compare to its European neighbours?

How does France's public holiday count compare to its European neighbours?
Workers in French get plenty of opportunity to visit the beach. Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP
Workers in France enjoy a generous spread of public holidays, celebrating everything from key dates in French history to slightly obscure religious festivals - but how does the allocation compare to other European countries?

France has 10 official public holidays a year, or 12 if you live in certain parts of the country, plus one optional holiday that only some workers get.

The holidays are; January 1st (New Year’s Day), Easter Monday, May 1st (May Day), May 8th (VE Day); Ascension Day, July 14th (Bastille Day), August 15th (Assumption), November 1st (All Saints’ Day), November 11th (Armistice Day) and December 25th (Christmas Day)

Pentecost (which varies in date but fell on May 24th in 2021) is a holiday for some employees but not others, although government offices and banks will close.

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

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The people of Alsace and Lorraine have two extra public holidays – Good Friday and St Stephen’s Day on December 26th. This is for complicated historical reasons involving wars, Germany and French trades unions.

French holidays, apart from Easter Monday and Pentecost, are taken on the day they fall on, rather than being moved to the nearest Monday.

So if the holiday happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday then most people just lose their holiday day (although some sectors have agreements that a day in lieu be given on the Monday if a holiday falls on Sunday).

This gives rise to the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ years for holidays (2021 is a particularly bad year) but also allows employees to faire le pont (do the bridge) and take an extra day off to ‘bridge’ a public holiday to a weekend and get a a nice four-day break while only using one day of annual leave. If you take two days, this is known as faire le viaduc.

So how does all this compare?

Here is the situation in the eight other European countries covered by The Local:

Austria

Public holidays: 13 national, including some falling on a weekend. Up to 15 regionally.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day), January 6th (Epiphany), Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021), May 1st (Labour Day), Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021), Pentecost (May 24th in 2021), Corpus Christi Day (June 3rd in 2021), August 15th (Assumption Day), October 26th (National Day), November 1st (All Saints Day), December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 25th (Christmas), December 26th (Boxing Day)

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, no substitute day is given.

Some states have additional public holidays: March 19th in Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg; May 4th in Upper Austria; October 10th in Carinthia; November 11th in Burgenland; November 15th in Lower Austria and Vienna.

In addition, three further days are bank holidays but not national public holidays: Good Friday (two days before Easter Sunday), December 24th and December 31st. Depending on your employer, you may get these off work.

Denmark

Public holidays: 10 national, including some falling on a weekend.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day); Maundy Thursday (April 1st in 2021); Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021); Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021); General Prayer Day (April 30th in 2021); Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021); Pentecost (May 24th in 2021); December 24th (Christmas Eve); December 25th (Christmas); December 26th (Boxing Day).

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, no substitute day is given.

Some industries also have May 1st (Labour Day) as a day off, while June 5th (Constitution Day) is a holiday for banks and government workers, with most shops closed too by law, but optional for the private sector.

Midsummer’s Eve (June 25th in 2021) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) are not public holidays, but many employers treat them as such.

Germany

Public holidays: 9 national, including some falling on a weekend, up to 13 regionally.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day), Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021); Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021); May 1st (Labour Day); Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021); Pentecost (May 24th in 2021); October 3rd (German Unity Day); December 25th (Christmas); December 26th (Boxing Day).

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, no substitute day is given.

Many states have extra holidays: January 6th (Epiphany) in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony-Anhalt; March 8th (International Women’s Day) in Berlin; Corpus Christi Day (June 3rd in 2021) in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Hessen; August 15th (Assumption Day) in Bavaria and Saarland; September 20th (World Children’s Day) in Thuringia; October 31st (Reformation Day) in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein; November 1st (All Saints Day) in Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Bavaria; Day of Repentance and Prayer (November 17th in 2021) in Saxony.

Italy

Public holidays: 11 nationally, including some that fall on weekends, up to 12 regionally,

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day): January 6th (Epiphany), Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021), April 25th (Liberation Day), May 1st (Labour Day), June 2nd (Republic Day), August 15th (Ferragosto), November 1st (All Saints’ Day), December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 25th (Christmas Day), December 26th (Boxing Day)

What else do you need to know?  If the holiday falls on a weekend, no substitute day is given.

There are also some extra regional holidays: April 25th (Feast of St Mark) in Venice, April 28th (Sardinia Day) in Sardinia, June 24th (Feast of St John) in Florence, Genoa and Turin, June 29th (Feast of St Peter and St Paul) in Rome, July 15th (Feast of St Rosalia) in Palermo, September 19th (Feast of St Gennaro) in Naples, October 4th (Feast of St Patronius) in Bologna, November 2nd (Feast of St Giusto) in Trieste, December 6th (Feast of St Nicholas) in Bari, and December 7th (Feast of St Ambrose) in Milan. 

Norway

Public holidays: 10 nationally, including some which may fall on a weekend, 

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Eve), Maundy Thursday (April 1st in 2021); Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021); Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021); May 1st (Labour Day), May 17th (Constitution Day), Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021); Pentecost (May 24th in 2021); December 25th (Christmas Day), December 26th (Boxing Day).

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, no substitute day is given.

December 24th (Christmas Eve) is not a public holiday, but some employers give it anyway and very few people work as this is the main day of Christmas celebrations in Norway.

Spain

Public holidays: 8 nationally, up to 14 locally.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day), Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021), May 1st (Labour Day), October 12th (Spanish National Day), November 1st (All Saints’ Day), December 6th (Constitution Day), December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 25th (Christmas Day)

What else do you need to know? If a national or regional holiday falls on a Sunday, it is up to the regional government whether to have a day in lieu on the next weekday. Additional holidays are chosen at the regional or local level.

Some public holidays are only celebrated in certain regions:

January 6th (Epiphany) in Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castile and León, Catalonia, Ceuta, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Melilla, Murcia, Navarra, Valencia

St Joseph’s Day (March 19th) in Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia, Navarra, Valencia

Maundy Thursday in Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castile and León, Ceuta, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Melilla, Murcia, Navarra

Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021) in Balearic Islands, Basque Country, Catalonia, La Rioja, Navarra, Valencia

Corpus Christi Day (June 3rd in 2021) in Castilla-La Mancha

San Juan (June 24th) in Catalonia and Valencia

Eid al-Adha in Ceuta and Melilla

August 15th (Assumption Day) in Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Canary Islands, Castile and León

On top of that almost every region has at least one regional public holiday: February 28th in Andalusia, March 1st in Balearic Islands, March 19th in Basque Country, April 23rd in Aragon and Castile and León (both regions have it as their regional day), September 8th in Asturias; July 28th and September 15th in Cantabria, May 31st in Castilla-La Mancha, September 11th in Catalonia, September 2nd in Ceuta, September 8th in Extremadura, May 17th in Galicia, June 9th in La Rioja, May 2nd in Madrid, March 13th in Melilla. Each of the Canary Islands has an individual public holiday (July 3rd for El Hierro, August 5th for La Palma, September  8th for Gran Canaria, September 15th for Lanzarote, September 17th for Fuerteventura, October 4th for La Gomera). 

And each municipality usually has a further two or more extra holidays depending on local patron saints.

Sweden

Public holidays: 9 nationally, with 3 so-called de facto public holidays.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day), January 6th (Epiphany), Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021); Easter Monday (April 5th in 2021), May 1st (Labour Day), Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021), June 6th (National Day), December 25th (Christmas Day), December 26th (Boxing Day). 

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, you do not get an extra weekday in lieu.

Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not national public holidays in Sweden, but the majority of employers treat them as such. 

In many workplaces or collective bargaining or agreements, there are additional public holiday policies. The most common include a half-day before certain public holidays (Epiphany, Walpurgis and All Saints’ Eve), or ‘bridge days’, so that if a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, the Monday before or Friday after is given as an extra day off.

Switzerland

Public holidays: Only 4 nationally and the communes with the fewest paid public holidays have only 5 in total, up to 16 regionally.

When are they? January 1st (New Year’s Day), Ascension Day (May 13th in 2021), August 1st (National Day), December 25th (Christmas Day). 

What else do you need to know? If the holiday falls on a weekend, you do not get an extra weekday in lieu.

Several public holidays are marked by a majority of regions, but not quite all: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Pentecost and All Saints’ Day.

Some other public holidays are marked by multiple regions: January 2nd (St Berchtold’s Day), January 6th (Epiphany), March 19th (St Joseph’s Day), May 1st (Labour Day), August 15th (Assumption Day), December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception).

And some cantons have their own holidays: March 1st (Republic Day) in Neuchâtel; June 23rd (Jura Independence Day) in Jura; June 29th (Feast of St Peter and St Paul) in Graubünden and Ticino, Jeûne genevois (September 9th in 2021) in Geneva; Day After the Federal Fast (September 19th in 2021) in Vaud, September 22nd in Appenzell Innerrhoden, September 25th in Obwalden, December 24th in Glaurus and December 31st in Geneva and Glarus. 

A few local communes also have additional public holidays.


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