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LIVING IN FRANCE

Calendar: School and public holidays in France for 2023

As the new year approaches, many in France may already be forward to holidays and family trips in 2023. Here are the days off you can begin planning for.

Calendar: School and public holidays in France for 2023
Students play at a schoolyard in Lille, in September 2022. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

If you are looking to plan ahead, we have compiled a list of public holidays in France in 2023.

In total there are 11 public holidays every year, apart from in Alsace-Lorraine where people get 13 days off for historical reasons – that’s explained here.

However all public holidays in France 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.

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.

This creates the concept of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’ for holidays, and we’re happy to report that 2023 is a good year.

In 2023, only two of France’s 11 jours fériés fall on weekends – New Year’s Day (falling on a Sunday) and Armistice Day (falling on a Saturday). May will be a particularly nice month, with four public holidays this year.

December 25th is the only official holiday day over Christmas in France – December 24th and 26th are normal working days, so that means no extra day off for Christmas unless your bosses are feeling generous.

Only two holidays in 2023 fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday, so you will not have many opportunities to faire le pont this year. Holidays that can be ‘bridged’ in 2023 are Ascension Day on Thursday, May 18th, and Assumption, on Tuesday, August 15th. 

Here is the full list of 2023 holidays in France:

Sunday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Monday, April 10th – Easter Monday
Monday, May 1st – Worker’s Day
Monday May 8th – V-E Day
Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
Monday May 29th – Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte – for some workers only).
Friday, July 14th – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
Tuesday, August 15th – The Assumption (l’Assomption)
Wednesday, November 1st – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint)
Saturday, November 11th – Armistice Day
Monday, December 25th – Christmas Day

If you have children in school (or if you want to avoid booking trips during the school holidays) you will also need to know the school holiday calendar.

The school holidays in France for the year of 2023 will break down as follows. For winter half term and spring holidays, schools in France are divided into three zones (shown below) with different dates off from school. 

The French school district ‘zones’

Christmas holidays

Students head back to class on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 after their Christmas holidays.

Winter half term

Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon and Poitiers) winter holidays start on Saturday, February 4th. Students will go back to school on Monday, February 20th.

Zone B (Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, and Strasbourg) winter holidays will start on Saturday, February 11th. Students will go back to school on Monday, February 27th.

Zone C (Paris, Créteil, Versailles, Montpellier, and Toulouse) winter holidays will start on Saturday, February 18th. Students will go back to school on Monday, March 6th.

Spring holiday

Zone A schools (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon and Poitiers) will break up on Saturday, April 8th and pupils will return back to class on Monday, April 24th.

Zone B schools (Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, and Strasbourg) will break up on Saturday, April 15th and pupils will return back to class on Tuesday, May 2nd. 

Zone C schools (Paris, Créteil, Versailles, Montpellier, and Toulouse) will break up on Saturday, April 22nd and pupils will return back to class on Tuesday, May 9th. 

Grandes Vacances

The summer holidays will begin for all students in France on Saturday, July 8th.

La rentrée (the start of the new school year)

Students across France will return to school after summer break on Monday, September 4th.

Toussaint Holidays

The Toussaint holidays will run from Saturday, October 21st to Monday, November 6th in 2023.

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays will run from Saturday, December 23rd to Monday, January 8th.

Unusually, this year the Education Ministry has also published the holiday dates for 2024 and 2025 – you can find those dates here.

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READER QUESTION

Reader question: How many public holidays does France have?

You would think this would be a simple question - but in fact the answer depends on the year, the region and your job. We explain.

Reader question: How many public holidays does France have?

Question: How many public holidays does France have per year and how does this compare to other countries?

The most commonly-given answer to this question is that France has 11 public holidays per year, ranging from the religious (Ascension and Assumption) to the secular (May Day and commemorations for World War I and II).

There are, however, some caveats to that.

The first is regional – if you live in the three départements that make up the historic region of Alsace-Lorraine you get 13 – the extra ones being St Stephen’s Day (December 26th) and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter).

The reason for this is that the region had been part of Germany and became French again after the end of World War I – but the inhabitants had become used to having the extra holidays when they were part of Germany and showed no interest in giving them up. A compromise was reached.

The second is the year – some holidays (like Easter) change date each year, but others (such as November 11th which marks the end of World War I) stay on the same date each year, and sometimes that date will fall on a weekend.

Some countries change the day of holidays – for example in the UK the Remembrance Day holiday is always on the Monday closest to November 11th – but in France holidays happen when they fall. So if it falls on a weekend the holiday is ‘lost’ in terms of time off – it’s still a public holiday, but workers don’t get any extra days off. 

For this reason there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ holiday years in France – 2023 is a very good year. It also gives rise to the practice of ‘faire le pont‘ – where workers use a single day of their annual leave allowance to ‘bridge’ a holiday – for example if Tuesday is a public holiday they take Monday as a day’s holiday and create a nice four-day weekend.

And finally, there’s Pentecost.

The Christian festival has a curious history in France, in that it used to be a public holiday and then the government scrapped it and introduced instead ‘solidarity day’, in which workers donated a day’s salary to charity.

Pentecost: The ‘holiday’ where some people work for free

They they ditched this idea, but some companies kept it – the upshot is that on Pentecost some workers get the day off, some work as normal and some work as normal but that day’s pay goes to charity. 

And how does France compare to the rest of Europe?

It’s mid-table – French workers do better than those in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the UK but worse than those in Spain or Italy. For Germany and Switzerland it depends which region/canton you are in as there are lots of local holidays.

Here’s those French holidays in full, with the days they fall in 2023. French rail services typically offer sales in advance of holiday periods, as well – you can learn more HERE

  • Sunday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
  • Monday, April 10th – Easter Monday
  • Monday, May 1st – Worker’s Day
  • Monday May 8th – V-E Day
  • Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
  • Monday May 29th – Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte – for some workers only).
  • Friday, July 14th – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
  • Tuesday, August 15th – The Assumption (l’Assomption)
  • Wednesday, November 1st – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint)
  • Saturday, November 11th – Armistice Day
  • Monday, December 25th – Christmas Day
 
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