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Celebrating Whit Monday in France

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The majority of France’s population (around sixty-five percent) identifies as Christian, with most of those Christians being Catholic. Considering the large Christian population, Christian holidays are a big deal here!

In this article, you’ll learn about the Whit Monday holiday in France. We’ll dive into the Whit Monday meaning, explore the most common traditions in France, and go over some important vocabulary you should know.

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Whit Monday in France?

The Shape of a Dove Against the Sun

Whit Monday is a Christian holiday that celebrates the descent of the Saint-Esprit (“Holy Spirit” ) onto Jesus’s disciples. The Holy Spirit’s descent is said to mark the “birthday” of the Christian church. Catholics celebrate this holiday as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

The name of this holiday is thought to stem from Pentecost’s other name (Whit Sunday or Whitsun), with “whit” referring to the white garments worn by those hoping to be baptized. Others speculate that “whit” could refer to the Anglo-Saxon “wit,” which refers to one’s understanding. After all, the Holy Spirit is thought to provide understanding and wisdom to Christians.

Whit Monday in France is a jour férié (“public holiday” ), which means that the majority of businesses are closed. However, due to an unprecedented canicule (“heatwave” ) that took place from 2005 to 2007, many people had to work during this holiday to help provide service de santé (“health services” ) for the older population. Today, Whit Monday is still considered a public holiday, though many French people do end up working.

    → See our vocabulary list on Religion to learn some useful vocab.

2. What Date is Whit Monday This Year?

A Rabbit in an Easter Basket

Whit Monday is a moveable holiday, meaning that its date changes each year according to the Christian calendar and the date of Pâques (“Easter” ). For your convenience, we’ve outlined this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: June 1
  • 2021: May 24
  • 2022: June 6
  • 2023: May 29
  • 2024: May 20
  • 2025: June 9
  • 2026: May 25
  • 2027: May 17
  • 2028: June 5
  • 2029: May 21

3. Whit Monday Traditions & Celebrations

Someone Having Their Baby Baptized

Whit Monday is a time to commemorer (“commemorate” ) the gift of the Holy Spirit, though this holiday doesn’t have quite the same religious connotation as Whit Sunday (Pentecost) does. The Whit Monday holiday is often considered a perfect opportunity for baptême (“baptism” ), with many Christians being baptized for the first time or re-baptized.

In addition to religious celebrations, a common French Whit Monday tradition is to visit with family and friends. This often involves eating a nice meal or going out together. Some people prefer to stay at home and enjoy their time off work, while others engage in outdoor activities if the weather permits.

As mentioned, on Whit Monday, France’s businesses are largely closed, though a few may be open for people’s enjoyment.

4. Shavuot

Shavuot is a major Jewish holiday, and it’s thought that the apostles were in the process of celebrating this holiday when the Holy Spirit descended on them.

During Shavuot, a holiday celebrating the wheat harvest, Jews offer bikkurim (first fruits) at the temple, read the Book of Ruth, and eat dairy products.

5. Must-Know French Vocabulary for Whit Monday

A Cemetery with White Crosses and Purple Flowers

Let’s review the most important words and phrases for Whit Monday in France!

  • Cinquante — “Fifty” [n. masc]
  • Jour — “Day” [n. masc]
  • Religion — “Religion” [n. fem]
  • Service de santé — “Health services” [n.]
  • Jour férié — “Public holiday” [masc]
  • Pâques — “Easter” [fem]
  • Messe — “Mass” [n. fem]
  • Jésus — “Jesus”
  • Commemorer — “Commemorate” [v.]
  • Saint-Esprit — “Holy Spirit” [masc]
  • Apôtre — “Apostle” [n. masc]
  • Venue — “Descent” [n. fem]
  • Baptême — “Baptism” [n. masc]
  • — “Elderly” [adj.]
  • Canicule — “Heatwave” [n.]

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, be sure to visit our French Whit Monday vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Whit Monday in France with us, and that you took away some valuable cultural information.

Do you celebrate Whit Monday in your country? If so, are traditions there similar or quite different from those in France? We look forward to hearing your answers in the comments.

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