a vacation in France like no other


Today (June 1) is a public holiday in France – but not like the others on the calendar.

Originally one of the four public holidays in France in May * – giving May the title of the month that bosses hate – Whit Monday (Whit Monday) now has special status.

This dates from a reaction to the heat wave of August 2003, when around 15,000 people, mainly elderly people, died while temperatures rose to 42 ° C in large parts of France.

The heat started just after most departments, including health and social services, closed or slowed down during the summer vacation. Some of the victims’ bodies were not found until the neighbors returned from vacation.

The Minister of Health at the time, Jean-François Mattei, did not help things by appearing on TF1 on August 11, from his holiday home in Var, dressed in a polo shirt, assuring the nation that ‘there was no crisis.

He was dismissed from the government in March 2004, along with other ministers, after the government suffered heavy defeats in the regional elections.

The resulting scandal also led to the end of the Raffarin government, and a new law passed in 2004 and promulgated for the first time in 2005, which effectively suppressed the Whit Monday holiday, with salaries and charges day social services used to finance a special budget to improve care for the elderly in the community.

It was this budget that led the town halls to draw up lists of vulnerable people in the communes and to ensure that they were called or visited during the heat waves. Subsidies are also provided to retirement homes to ensure that they have at least one air-conditioned living room for residents.

Officially, all references to the Pentecost Monday holiday were removed from the labor law books in 2008, and now the holiday must be negotiated between the workers and the bosses of each company. The official reference for this day is now Solidarity Day.

What the government did not anticipate was the reaction of the French population. Most simply refused to go to work on Whit Monday, turning the day into a simple tax payable by businesses in France. Even government institutions, such as schools, were closed the same day.

It is estimated that it now brings in around 3 billion euros a year.

Most companies consider the day as a paid public holiday or a mandatory RTT (reduction of working time) day under 35-hour week laws, but there are various provisions, some involving two additional minutes at work every day during the work year, to compensate.

Whatever the arrangement, employers end up paying an additional tax to the state for the day, and it is a day when there are no bonuses (bonuses which can constitute a large part of French wages but who do not count for pensions or social security) are paid to workers.

* The four public holidays in May are May 1, May 1, celebrating workers’ international solidarity, Victory Day 1945, May 8, celebrating the end of World War II in Europe, Ascension, a holy Christian church celebrating the day Jesus Christ appeared before the disciples before going up to heaven, and Pentecost Monday, another Christian holy day celebrating the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Earth. Ascension and Pentecost are not on fixed dates because they depend on the date of Easter, determined by the lunar calendar, this is why, this year, Pentecost Monday falls in June 1.

The rise of May should not be confused with the holiday of the Assumption, August 15, which celebrates the rise of Mary, the mother of Jesus in heaven. August 15 is also the day of the birth of Napoleon I, and during the Third Empire was celebrated as a holiday to celebrate it. Some people in France still call the feast of August 15 the day of Napoleon.


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