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Archive for the 'French Holidays' Category

The French National Anthem: La Marseillaise


Have you ever heard La Marseillaise, the French national anthem? The music is beautiful, but the lyrics are not easy to decipher, full of old-fashioned words and unusual turns of phrases. 

Play it in front of a French audience, and suddenly, everybody starts singing along. We all know the lyrics, and there is something strangely captivating in its ferocity. I’ve seen the most reserved people start to raise their voices like there was no tomorrow just from hearing the first notes of our national anthem.

Moving and emotional for some, thrilling and vibrant for others, the Marseillaise was also called racist and xenophobic, anachronistic and obsolete, a bloodthirsty call to arms. Opinions vary, and this is also what makes it such an interesting piece of French history and a fascinating object of study.

In this article, we will begin by discussing the history and creation of the French national anthem. We’ll then talk about its lyrics, contemporary uses, and the criticisms it has received.

La Marseillaise

“La Marseillaise”, by François Rude, on the Arc de Triomphe.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. From Military Song to National Anthem
  2. Lyrics of La Marseillaise
  3. When is it Played?
  4. Should France Find a New National Anthem?
  5. Le mot de la fin

1. From Military Song to National Anthem

Contrary to what is often believed, the Marseillaise was not born in the city of Marseille but in the region of Alsace, during the war against Austria.

As the king saw his power slipping away, Louis XVI hoped that a French military defeat would allow him to restore his authority. He declared war on the king of Bohemia and Hungary on April 20, 1792. Little did he know that it would be fatal to him, nor that it would generate the rallying song of the French for generations to come. 

After two months of chaotic skirmishes, the Baron de Dietrich, mayor of Strasbourg, realized that the French troops lacked a unifying song. He turned to his friend, the officer Rouget de Lisle, a musician and poet in his spare time. Rouget de Lisle was inspired by a propaganda poster, and composed an energetic tune by drawing from other known marches and hymns.

He worked on it during the night of June 25, 1792, and the next day, Le Chant de guerre pour l’armée du Rhin (“War song for the army of the Rhin”) was born.

Rouget de Lisle, Singing La Marseillaise

Rouget de Lisle, singing La Marseillaise

At the end of July, the French troops were forced to retreat in front of Prussia, who had come to the aid of Austria. French volunteers were called in from all over France to reinforce the ranks. In August, the federates from Marseille landed in Paris, taking with them this now revolutionary song. It was only later that it was renamed La Marseillaise

It was a pivotal moment for the country and the genesis of the Republic, since on August 10 the federates invaded the Tuileries and locked up the king and his family, thus putting an end to almost a thousand years of absolute monarchy. On July 14, 1795, the Marseillaise was recognized as one of the “airs and civic songs that have contributed to the success of the Revolution.”

Then came Napoleon, and – Plot twist! – he banned the song in 1815, because of its Revolutionary association. It remained banned for nearly thirty years. The second revolution of 1830 put it back in the spotlight, before it was decreed national anthem under the Third Republic (1879).

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

2. Lyrics of La Marseillaise

For the longest time, there was no official version of La Marseillaise, which regularly provoked some awkward musical disturbances during its performance. The original manuscript has 6 verses. A 7th verse, often called le couplet des enfants (“The children’s verse”), was added later.

Additional lesser-known verses have been omitted from the national anthem. It brings the total number of verses to a whopping 15. But as you’re not likely to ever hear these added verses, let’s stick to the official 7.

Verse 1

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L’étendard sanglant est levé ! (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils et nos compagnes !
Let us go, children of the fatherland,
Our day of glory has arrived!
Against us, the bloody flag of tyranny
is raised!
Can you hear in the countryside
The roar of these savage soldiers?
They come right into our arms
To slit the throat of our sons and our wives.


Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! Marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May their impure blood
Water our furrows!

Verse 2

Que veut cette horde d’esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! Quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer
De rendre à l’antique esclavage !
What does this horde of slaves
traitors and conspiring kings want?
For whom these vile chains,
These long prepared irons?
French, for us, ah! What outrage!
What strong emotions it must arouse!
It is to use they dare to scheme
A return to antique slavery!

Verse 3

Quoi ! Ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! Par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
What! Foreign cohorts
would rule in our homes!
What! Those mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors!
Great God! By chained hands
Our heads under the yoke would bend!
Vile despots would become
The masters of our destinies!

Verse 4

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides,
L’opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! Vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !
Tremble, tyrants and perfidious ones,
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their prices!
Everyone is a soldier to fight you,
If they fall, our young heroes,
New ones will rise from the earth,
Ready to fight against you!

Verse 5

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
À regret s’armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
French, as magnanimous warriors,
Strike or hold your blows!
Spare these sad victims,
Regretfully arming against us.
But these bloodthirsty despots,
But these accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who, without mercy,
Tear apart their mother’s breast!

Verse 6

Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
Sacred love of the fatherland,
Guide and support our vengeful arms!
Liberty, cherished liberty
Fight with your defenders!
Under our flag, may victory
Rush to your manly accents!
May your dying enemies
See your triumph and our glory!

Verse 7

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus ;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus. (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre !
We will enter the career
When our elders are no longer there;
There, we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues.
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffin,
We will have the sublime pride
To avenge or to follow them!

Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People, by Eugène Delacroix

3. When is it Played?

La Marseillaise is played on very specific occasions, typically for important speeches or ceremonies. You can hear it when the President is addressing the nation on TV, for example on new year’s eve, or for major announcements.

Military parades also sometimes resound with the fierce melody of our national anthem. It can be heard in small local events, as well as major parades such as the one on the 14th of July, when we celebrate the revolutionary Jour de la Bastille (“Bastille day”), our National day.

It is also traditionally played and sung during sport events. Football or rugby teams sing it before important games, during championships and you can hear it during Olympic games.

The most famous arrangement of the Marseillaise was written by French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is often considered the ‘official’ version.

Other notable versions include:

And my personal favorite, by French electronic musician Worakls.

La Parisienne, by Worakls

4. Should France Find a New National Anthem?

The Marseillaise is the reflection of a troubled time, of a bitter and merciless struggle against oppression, and the symbol of the union of a people to abolish the monarchy and take back control of its destiny. At its core, it is a war hymn used to galvanize the troops before the fight.

Is it violent, racist, or an outdated and embarrassing war song? The Marseillaise is one of the world’s most controversial songs. Even back in 1792, its original writer, Rouget de Lisle, almost lost his head and was thrown in jail under suspicion of being a royalist. He made it through, and his song survived the discredit, but that was just the beginning.

After being banned by Napoleon, the Marseillaise regained its influence during the Second World War, when it was sung by the resistance. The song had been banned by the collaborating Vichy government. Afterwards, it kept its momentum and became a rallying cry to rebuild a deeply wounded country.

However, in early 2000, the song became somewhat uncomfortable and was the target of frequent criticism. One of the main reasons comes from its use during France’s occupation of Algeria and its brutal and bloody war of independence in the middle of the 20th century. 

As a result, in 2001, it was booed by French-Algerians during a soccer match that degenerated into a riot when hundreds of supporters took to the field. More incidents occurred with Corsicans in 2002 and pretty much every year between then and 2008.

It remains somewhat controversial today but not nearly as much as it used to be. Opportunistic politicians still occasionally criticize it or use it to gain attention and publicity, but there has been no serious polemics recently.

Original Score of the Marseillaise

Original score of the Marseillaise

5. Le mot de la fin

In this guide, you have learned everything about La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, from its history to its lyrics, most notable arrangements and controversies. Do you know of any interesting anecdotes about the song, or chapters in its history that we forgot to mention? Don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!

FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and Free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining!

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal 1-on-1 coaching and have your own private teacher to practice with. 

Along with assignments, personalized exercises, and recording audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

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An Overview of French Culture


Are you planning on visiting France soon? Or even on settling down? Maybe you’re just curious about the country in general. Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the perfect place to learn about what makes France so special.

France is considered one of the most culturally influential countries in the world, and this is not surprising. This country has a lot to offer: a wealth of history and art, fine food, booming entertainment industries, a chic fashion scene, and strong values.

On this page, you’ll learn the most important French culture facts, from core values to general lifestyle.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. French Values
  2. Religions and Cults
  3. Relationships
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Art and Entertainment
  6. Food and Wine
  7. French Holidays
  8. Le Mot De La Fin

1. French Values

Understanding French culture begins with a working knowledge of the values and mindset of the French. 

A- Why is it Difficult to Define a “French Culture”?

While the concept of a “melting pot” is an integral part of the American culture, it has always been a bit more contentious in France. What is the French culture exactly? Should it be viewed as the culture from the mainland? But then what about Corsica and our five overseas regions?

Today, France is not the patchwork of local customs nor the disparate collection of communities it was only two centuries ago. However, it’s still home to numerous indigenous and foreign languages as well as multiple ethnicities and religions—and all of this on top of the regional diversity of the metropolitan territories.

Somehow, France managed to develop a certain shared “cultural identity.” It came not only from the education system, military service, and local politics, but also from profoundly influential historical events such as the French Revolution in 1789, the two World Wars, and the social revolution in 1968.

Despite some recent efforts to promote multiculturalism and communitarianism (through the preservation of regional languages and the decentralization of power), a number of events have put this fragile culture under a lot of pressure: 

  • the depopulation of the countryside
  • large waves of non-Christian immigrant communities
  • centralization
  • market forces
  • the globalization of the world economy

However, there is still a sense of pride in our national identity and in the achievements of France. The interracial blending also makes for a vibrant pool of talents, from popular music to literature, music, art, and more.

B- Core Values of the French Republic 

Liberty, equality, and fraternity have defined the French people since the eighteenth century (often called the Age of Enlightenment). The motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” first appeared during the French Revolution and was later written into the Constitution in 1958, officially becoming part of the French national heritage.

Do these values still hold true in France today? While French citizens are mainly concerned about social inequalities, loss of liberties, and abuses of power, this is a very delicate question. Nevertheless, it remains an ideal we want to hold on to.

C- The French Mindset

There are a few defining French culture characteristics concerning specific values and the French mindset. Of course, this varies a lot depending on one’s social circle and level of education, but there are some general trends.

Freedom is greatly valued and people are often defiant toward authorities: government and police alike. Suspicions of corruption or abuse of power easily arise and can have a huge impact on people’s perception of the current elected officials.

Freedom of speech is usually seen as essential. Nowadays, it is arguably impaired by a certain obsession with political correctness. Public expressions that are deemed inappropriate are even punishable by law as they can potentially foster hatred.

However, we still value critical thinking and education, and the French often try to appear knowledgeable about culture, literature, world events, science, or…well, basically everything. In France, you don’t need to look tough, have perfect hair, or possess amazing dance skills. If you want to stand out, you need to be educated and assertive.

Having an open mind is generally regarded as an important quality. Even though there is still a lot of work ahead of us, the French are rather progressive in their mentalities regarding different religions and are more willing to dive into new cultures. Gender inequalities are on the decline and LGBT rights have come a long way in recent years.

Social classes are still a thing, with the upper class rarely mingling with the ‘commoners,’ a general disconnect from the rural world, and increasing social inequality. On an encouraging note, the public opinion is showing more and more awareness of those issues. For example, when Presidents Sarkozy or Macron were displaying too much wealth or scorning the working class, their popularity quickly went down.

The French Revolution

La Révolution Française (“The French Revolution”) – 1789

2. Religions and Cults

In French culture, religion is a hot topic—making it an essential factor to mention in our overview.

A- Freedom of Religion

France is a secular country. This means that, by law, the French government remains neutral concerning religion; as such, it should neither enforce nor prohibit citizens’ free exercise of religion. French citizens are free to choose any religion (or none), and it’s a private matter that shall never interfere with official affairs.

No “God saves the President” or swearing on the Bible in France. When the loi sur la séparation de l’Église et de l’État (“Law on the Separation of the Church and State”) came into effect in 1905, so did the “freedom to practice religion.”

It’s important to understand that this set of laws is by no means a weapon against religion. It is only returning all religions to the private sector and guaranteeing state secularism in the public sphere. The French state does not favor any particular religion and should aim at maintaining their peaceful co-existence.

In the same spirit, the law of March 15, 2004, prohibits all religious clothing and accessories from being worn in schools (as children are considered more vulnerable to indoctrination). This specific law caused some outrage among part of the Muslim community and is still a hot topic.

B- Dominant Religions in France

According to a recent official poll by the French government:

  • 37% of French people identify with some religion
  • 31% are atheists and 15% agnostics
  • 10% are indifferent to religion

14% of French people take part in some religious practice at least once a month (religious office or events, group prayers, etc.).

Catholicism is by far the most dominant religion in the country, way ahead of Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. It’s interesting to note how heavily Islam has weighed on the public debate, despite there being a very small number of Muslim believers in France.

Even though France boasts a glorious Catholic legacy, with numerous architectural masterpieces such as Notre-Dame and the Cathédrale de Reims, Christianity is on the decline and few people attend Mass anymore. This decline is especially prominent among the younger generations.

Le Mont Saint Michel

Le Mont Saint Michel

3. Relationships

Every culture has its own ways of perceiving and handling different relationships. Let’s take a look at French cultural norms when it comes to family, couples, and friends.

A- Family

The family is an important cohesive component of French society and each member has certain responsibilities. Gender equality hasn’t been fully achieved yet, but both parents are usually working and making important household decisions together.

Family members are generally close. They take meals together during the week and it’s common to gather with extended family on weekends. When they’re not living under the same roof anymore, they regularly keep in touch.

With 1.87 children per woman (a number that has been slowly but steadily going down since 2010), France remains the most fertile country in the European Union.

B- Couples

Since the 1960s, marriage has been on the decline and France has seen an increasing number of divorces. Getting married is not as popular as it used to be, and a lot of French couples now have a practical approach to it. 

Created in 1999, the pacs or PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité, for “Civil Solidarity Pact”) is, along with the classic civil marriage, one of the two forms of civil union in France.

It was originally created to give same-sex couples the same rights and legal protection as straight couples. However, the PACS is getting increasingly popular, especially for straight couples who find it more flexible and less bureaucratically heavy than getting married. They represent more than 95% of the total number of couples getting Pacsed. Numbers are also showing that the PACS is slowly taking over traditional marriage.

As of 2013, France legally recognizes same-sex marriage, thanks to a new law called Mariage pour tous (“Marriage for all”), passed by President François Hollande. The first French same-sex marriage took place on May 29, 2013, in Montpellier.

C- Friendship

When compared to Americans, the French can seem cold or distant at first glance, but it’s just a misunderstanding of their behavior. We show a bit more formality and reserve with strangers and it takes some time for us to open up.

Inviting someone to our home doesn’t come as fast and naturally as it does in other cultures, but once we’re good friends with someone, our door will always be open. Friends are expected to be loyal, help each other, and stay in touch on a regular basis. Loin des yeux, loin du coeur. (“Far from the eyes, far from the heart.”)

A Happy Family Eating Together

La famille (“Family”)

4. Lifestyle

French traditions and culture make for a unique lifestyle in terms of work and leisure time. Take a look.

A- Work 

The business culture in France varies greatly depending on the industry and the company you’re dealing with. It ranges from very casual to uptight and formal. In any case, we strictly adhere to the hierarchy, and the chain of command matters even in small organizations.

The French value their free time most of all, and work is usually considered a means rather than an end. As a result, we have a reputation for working hard and efficiently, without overcommitting. We try to preserve a satisfying work-life balance at all times.

French workers tend to keep their work environment as friendly and casual as possible. You’re likely to develop strong connections with your colleagues and hang out outside of working hours (but this is by no means mandatory).

B- Hobbies

97% of the French believe that hobbies, sports, and social or cultural activities contribute to their quality of life. On average, active French workers can dedicate around nine hours per week to their hobbies.

Le foot (“Football”) is the most-watched sport in France, followed by Rugby, cycling, and tennis. But however popular they are on TV or at school, few people actually practice these sports in their free time. Hiking (in France or abroad), jogging, and dancing are much more common physical activities.

Other popular hobbies among French people include:

  • listening to music
  • watching TV
  • browsing online
  • going out with friends
  • watching movies or series
  • playing video games
  • reading newspapers
  • messaging 

Creative hobbies are also on the rise. 71% of the French take part in at least one creative activity, such as cooking, bricolage (do-it-yourself crafts), painting, and more.

C- Tobacco and Drugs

The legal drinking age is 18, and alcohol can be bought in any supermarket or convenience store and it’s sold in most restaurants. Alcohol plays an important role in social gatherings, be it in bars, clubs, or at home. It’s also common to conduct business over a glass of wine during a déjeuner d’affaires (“business lunch”).

The cigarette smoking age is also 18 years. Contrary to the widespread cliché, France is pretty far down the list of the heaviest cigarette consumers (ranking 60 out of 181). 

Following a series of laws in 2007 and 2008, smoking in all public places (stations, museums, restaurants) is now banned. While it’s possible to have a smoking room in your bar, smoking is so restricted that it usually only happens in the streets or terraces.

Cannabis is still illegal but widely used in France. Around 45% of the French have tried it and 30% smoke it somewhat regularly. It makes France one of the top consumers in the world, even before countries where the substance is legal, such as the Netherlands. Other recreational drugs are often very expensive and are thus marginally used.

Cycling Race

Le Tour de France (Most famous French cycling race)

5. Art and Entertainment

Few things are as defining as a culture’s collective art and entertainment industries. Here’s what you should know about art and entertainment in France.

A- Centuries of Art

France has a long tradition of flourishing art, especially since the twelfth century. This was when Gothic art and architecture originated around Paris before spreading all over Europe. Shortly after, French craftsmen developed the stained glass painting techniques that you can see in so many European Christian buildings.

From Gothic to Baroque, then to Classicism, French art evolved over the centuries to reach a peak around the seventeenth century. This was when famous classical painters, such as Peter Paul Ruben and Nicolas Poussin, emerged—and when impressive works of architecture, such as the Château de Versailles (“Versailles Castle”), were created.

To think that such legendary artists as Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Van Gogh were all alive during the same period in the second half of the nineteenth century is mind-blowing. It’s no surprise that the Louvre museum is host to such an impressive collection.

B- Music, Cinema, and Literature

The music of France reflects the diversity of the country’s ethnicities and cultures, with a wide array of styles. We have the fifth largest music market in the world and have produced many internationally famous artists, especially in electronic music (such as Daft Punk or David Guetta).

France is the birthplace of cinema and home to some of its most important contributions. Today, most French movies don’t go anywhere beyond our borders. Is it deserved? Yeah, pretty much. Except for a vibrant scene in the horror genre, we’re stuck with the same rehashed family dramas and dumb comedies.

French literature is an important part of our cultural lives and is introduced early on in our educational system. This is reinforced by the French media’s focus on book fairs and prizes, such as the Prix Goncourt, Prix Renaudot, and Prix Femina. Reading is a popular pastime for many French people, but it’s losing ground to streaming and other online activities.

All around the world, video games are now bigger than movies, and France is no exception. Thanks to tax cuts from the French government and a fair number of talented studios (such as Arkane, Asobo, and Dontnod), the French gaming industry has recently produced internationally acclaimed titles.

6. Food and Wine

The French culture and cuisine go hand in hand. Food is one of the great passions of French people, who place great emphasis on refined cooking methods that involve careful preparation of fresh ingredients. The cuisine can be really different from one region to the next and relies heavily on what is locally grown.

In 2010, the French gastronomy was awarded the most prestigious award by UNESCO when it was added to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A- The Top 5 French Dishes

It would be impossible to list all of the delicious dishes France is famous for, but here are a few samples:

  1. Tartiflette
    This consists of potatoes, fried onions, and sliced bacon oven-cooked with wine, garlic, and a massive amount of reblochon (arguably the best mountain cheese France has to offer).

  2. Steak Tartare
    This is raw beef ground or sliced into tiny pieces and served with a mix of herbs, condiments, a fresh egg yolk, capers, and minced shallot.

  3. Cassoulet
    This is a casserole of white beans and slow-cooked meat, often served with duck leg confit cooked in duck fat for the most decadent and amazing results.

  4. Crêpes
    Unlike American-style pancakes, crêpes are thin and delicate, but they share the same list of ingredients. They can be eaten with sweet or savory fillings.

  5. Endives au jambon
    This northern recipe is based on steam-cooked endives (“chicory”) wrapped in cooked ham, bathed in béchamel sauce, and topped with grated cheese.

B- Unique French Products

French wine is one of our biggest national prides. It’s produced across the whole country in large quantities and exported all over the world. It has many styles, terroirs, and labels, and it’s mostly made to accompany the food. No meal is complete without a good bottle of wine.

Short for apéritif, the apéro is a set of pre-dinner drinks and finger food. It’s similar to a cocktail party that we can have before lunch at around 11 a.m. or in the evening from 6 p.m. The French take their apéro quite seriously and it’s an important part of meetings with friends and family.

Cheese is one of the apéro’s best friends, and with around 1600 different French cheeses, there is a lot to be excited about. They all have their unique shape, texture, aroma, and flavor, but as a general rule: the smellier the better. Some cheeses are better suited for cooking and others are eaten in slices, on fresh bread, or melted in sauces.

Another classic apéro item is the charcuterie. It can consist of a wide range of cold cuts, from ham to saucisson, mortadella, smoked ham, cured ham, and much more. It comes mostly from pork and is often smoked or dry-cured.



    → Did this section stimulate your appetite? Make sure to stop by our full guide to French Cuisine for more details on the meals and local delicacies!

7. French Holidays 

Many of the French holidays are of Christian origin. For the most part, their religious implications have been lost, but we still commemorate Ascension Day, Christmas, and Easter Monday. We also have a few French-specific and secular holidays:

  1. National Day (July 14)
    This is the most important national holiday. It commemorates the French Revolution, and more precisely, the fall of the Bastille as a symbol of the French Revolution victory.

  2. Labor Day (May 1)
    The premier mai (“first of May”) or fête du travail (“work holiday”) is Labor Day in France. Almost all companies and stores are closed on that day.

  3. New Year’s Day (January 1)
    Le jour de l’an (Literally, “The day of the year”) or Le premier de l’an (“First of the year”) is the first day of the year. Like many countries, France celebrates the New Year. 

    → Make sure you come prepared when attending a French holiday celebration. Here are a few useful words for the National Holiday with audio recordings on

8. Le Mot De La Fin

In this French culture overview, you’ve learned everything about the culture of France, from its core values to religion, relationships, lifestyle, art, cuisine, and more. Did we forget any important French culture topics or facts you’ve heard about?

I hope this will inspire you to dive even deeper—and what better way to do so than by learning the language? Learning a foreign language is a window wide open to a new culture if you’re bold enough to take the leap!

Make sure to explore FrenchPod101, as we have plenty of free resources to help you study key grammar points and learn new words. Our vocabulary lists are also a great way to review words and learn their pronunciation.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. Your private teacher will help you with any topic you’re curious about or struggling with. Along with giving you assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples, your teacher will review your work and help you improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on!

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About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Celebrating Whit Monday in France


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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Celebrating Mother’s Day in France

Did you know that people have been celebrating mothers and motherhood for a very long time? After all, what would the world be like without mothers? A lot bleaker than it is already, I imagine!

Like many countries around the world, France has a special holiday set aside to honor one’s mother. In this article, you’ll learn all about Mother’s Day, France’s take on this holiday, and some new vocab.

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day is thought to have originated as far back as Ancient Greece, where the population organized springtime ceremonies for Rhea, the grandmother to the gods (and Zeus’ mother). The Ancient Romans had a similar holiday for celebrating mothers, called Matronalia. What we think of as Mother’s Day today, however, likely originated in the United States when Anna Jarvis publicly commemorated her deceased mother.

In 1929, the French government officially made Mother’s Day a holiday after many years of smaller celebrations throughout the country. The village of Artas refers to itself as the “cradle of Mother’s Day” due to a celebration it held in 1906 for mothers of large families. In 1920, this holiday was recognized, later becoming Mother’s Day as we know it today. In 1941, the Vichy Regime put this holiday on the calendar, and it was set to be the last Sunday of May; this took effect after the war.

In modern times, Mother’s Day is simply a holiday dedicated to honoring one’s mother and showering her with gifts.

2. When is Mother’s Day in France?

Mother’s Day is on a Sunday

Each year, the French celebrate Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in May (unless it falls on the same day as Pentecost, in which case it’s moved to the first Sunday of June). For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: June 7
  • 2021: May 30
  • 2022: May 29
  • 2023: June 4
  • 2024: May 26
  • 2025: May 25
  • 2026: May 31
  • 2027: May 30
  • 2028: May 28
  • 2029: May 27

3. Mother’s Day in France: Traditions & Celebrations

A Little Girl Holding Up a Handmade Mother’s Day Card

The most popular way to celebrate this holiday is by giving Mother’s Day gifts.

Starting from an early age, children make gifts for their mothers by hand; common items include cards and jewelry that were made in school. As children grow older, they may buy their mother things like clothes, perfume, or Mother’s Day flowers. Other popular gifts include chocolat (“chocolate”), a carte de vœux (“greeting card”), or a bon d’achat (“gift certificate”).

In addition, some children may give their mother a petit déjeuner au lit (“breakfast in bed”), and her husband may take the family out for a nice Mother’s Day dinner somewhere.

4. Médaille de la Famille

In France, there’s an honorary medal called the Médaille de la Famille that’s given out to families who have done well in raising a great many children.

Originally, this medal was created in hopes of giving mothers the honor and appreciation they deserve. Later on, however, fathers and other caregivers were allowed to receive this award as well.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Mother’s Day in France

A Family Eating Dinner Together

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here are the most important words and phrases for Mother’s Day!

  • Dîner — “Dinner” [n. masc]
  • Dimanche — “Sunday” [n. masc]
  • Chocolat — “Chocolate” [n. masc]
  • Aimer — “Love” [v.]
  • Fille — “Daughter” [n. fem]
  • Fils — “Son” [n. masc]
  • Cadeau — “Present” [n. masc]
  • Rose — “Rose” [n. fem]
  • Mère — “Mother” [n. fem]
  • Célébrer — “Celebrate” [v.]
  • Petit déjeuner au lit — “Breakfast in bed” [masc]
  • Carte de vœux — “Greeting card” [fem]
  • Bon d’achat — “Gift certificate” [n. masc]

To hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French Mother’s Day vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about French Mother’s Day celebrations with us, and that you took away some valuable information from this article.

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day in your country? We’d love to hear from you!

If you would like to learn even more about French culture and the language, has several more great articles for you:

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Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

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Dimanche de Rameaux: Celebrating Palm Sunday in France

Celebrating Palm Sunday in France

Dimanche de Rameaux, or Palm Sunday in France, is a major Christian holiday with many fascinating traditions. In this article, you’ll learn about the story behind Palm Sunday, France’s most common celebrations, and some useful vocabulary.

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Palm Sunday?

On Palm Sunday, exactly one week before Easter (Pâques), Christians celebrate Jesus’ entrée, or “entrance,” into Jerusalem. According to the Bible, people welcomed his arrival by throwing palm branches on the ground he traveled, hence this holiday’s name. Palm Sunday is also the first day of Semaine Sainte, or “Holy Week.”

In France, Palm Sunday is a day strongly associated with plants and other springtime elements, as is true in some other cultures as well. We’ll go more into this later.

2. When is Palm Sunday in France?

A Calendar

The date of Palm Sunday varies each year, along with the dates of Lent and Easter. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years:

  • 2020: April 5
  • 2021: March 28
  • 2022: April 10
  • 2023: April 2
  • 2024: March 24
  • 2025: April 13
  • 2026: March 29
  • 2027: March 21
  • 2028: April 9
  • 2029: March 25

3. Palm Sunday Traditions in France

A Man Carrying a Small Bible

Many French Palm Sunday traditions take place throughout the country, and they vary slightly based on region. For example, there are actually two different names for Palm Sunday. In northern France, it’s called Dimanche de Rameaux (“Sunday of Branches”); in southern France, it’s Dimanche de Palmes (“Sunday of Palms”). This is because the climate and weather of northern France are better suited for the growth of box-trees, while southern France has a climate more suited for palms. Some places in France also use olive branches.

On Palm Sunday, French believers go to the church to have their box-tree or palm branches blessed. They then take these branches home to decorate the front door, because some believe this grants God’s protection for the coming year. Some people also use these blessed branches as decorations for loved ones’ graves.

Another common Palm Sunday tradition is the Mass procession. This is when believers gather at one church to have the branches blessed and then proceed together toward a second church (or, if necessary, any other location deemed proper by the church).

4. Ash Wednesday

Each year, the branches that people took home on Palm Sunday are brought back to the church on Ash Wednesday the following year. There, the branches are burned, and the ashes are used to make a cross on the foreheads of believers. This is thought to give them God’s blessing.

5. Essential Palm Sunday Vocabulary

A Photo of Jerusalem

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this lesson? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for Palm Sunday!

  • Dimanche — “Sunday”
  • Calendrier — “Calendar”
  • Pâques — “Easter”
  • Précéder — “Precede”
  • Entrée — “Entrance”
  • Semaine sainte — “Holy Week”
  • Chrétien — “Christian”
  • Jésus — “Jesus”
  • Jérusalem — “Jerusalem”
  • Mort — “Death”
  • Croix — “Cross”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French Palm Sunday vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

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

Do you celebrate Palm Sunday in your country? If so, do traditions vary from those in France or are they pretty much the same? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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Celebrating International Women’s Day in France

Celebrating International Women’s Day in France

International Women’s Day (sometimes referred to as International Working Women’s Day) is an important holiday in France and around the world. It’s a holiday dedicated to promoting women’s rights, fighting for gender equality, and celebrating the achievements of women.

In this article, you’ll learn about the history of International Women’s Day, France’s unique celebrations for it, and more fun facts. Let’s get started!

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1. What is International Women’s Day?

The main focus of International Women’s Day varies from country to country, but there are usually three common threads:

  • Women’s right to vote (droit de vote)
  • Women’s right to work (droit de travail)
  • The promotion of equality (égalité) between genders

It’s also a day to celebrate and honor the many achievements of women over the years!

History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day started in 1909, when the Socialist Party of America put together the first observance in New York City. The idea soon spread to Europe—and eventually, to many other countries around the world—through Luise Zietz, Clara Zetkin, and Käte Duncker. In 1911, Europe had its very first International Women’s Day events and celebrations.

For the first few years that International Women’s Day was observed, it largely held onto its socialist roots. Women often marched and demonstrated to promote “feminism” (féminisme) and “women’s rights” (droits des femmes), and the holiday quickly caught on in more socialist or communist countries like China.

2. When is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is on March 8

Each year, International Women’s Day is on March 8.

3. How to Celebrate International Women’s Day in France

A Crowd of Women Cheering

Celebrations and events for International Women’s Day vary, with some countries preferring to keep the theme of women’s rights and feminism, and others giving it a more commercialized spin.

International Women’s Day in France is a major celebration, and people throughout the country observe this holiday. Currently, one of the biggest issues being demonstrated against in France is the wage gap that women experience in the workplace.

In addition to demonstrations, women often receive gifts or special deals for International Women’s Day. These include things like bouquets of flowers, chocolate, and beauty-related products.

4. The Tour de France

A notable demonstration of women’s fight for equality in France is the Tour de France. In particular, there’s a group of women who have been riding the entire Tour de France by the name Donnons des Elles au Vélo Jour -1, which means “Let the girls ride the day before.”

You can read more about this on The Telegraph.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for International Women’s Day

50/50 Sign on Blackboard Symbolizing Gender Equality

Ready to review some of the French vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the essential words and phrases for International Women’s Day!

  • Manifestation — “Demonstration”
  • Travail — “Work”
  • Planète — “Planet”
  • Victoire — “Victory”
  • Pays — “Country”
  • Continent — “Continent”
  • Fin — “End”
  • Féminisme — “Feminism”
  • Lutte — “Fight”
  • Américain — “American”
  • Européen — “European”
  • Droit de vote — “Right to vote”
  • Droit de travail — “Right to work”
  • Discrimination — “Discrimination”
  • Droits des femmes — “Women’s rights”
  • International — “International”
  • Revendiquer — “Claim”
  • Égalité — “Equality”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French International Women’s Day vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about International Women’s Day in France with us! Do you celebrate this holiday in your country? If so, how?

If you’re interested in learning more about France’s unique culture and holidays, check out the following pages on

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Happy International Women’s Day from the FrenchPod101 family!

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Épiphanie: Celebration of Epiphany in France

Each year, France celebrates the Épiphanie the French way, with lots of great food. In this article, you’ll learn about French Epiphany customs and more facts about the Christian Feast of the Epiphany.

At, it’s our goal to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative—starting with this article!

Ready? Let’s dive in.

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1. What is Epiphany Day?

Epiphany (Épiphanie) is a Christian feast that celebrates the visit of the Biblical Magi to the Baby Jesus. However, this feast takes root in pagan celebrations. The word “Epiphany” comes from Greek, and it means “appearance.”

For the Greeks, the epiphanes were gods who made themselves visible to men. To honor them, they observed the Feast of the Twelve Epiphany Gods, who were also called the twelve Olympians. Epiphany also symbolizes the manifestation of light, as the days start to get significantly longer from this day on.

For Christians, Epiphany celebrates the encounter of the three Magi Kings, Gaspard, Melchior, and Balthazar, with the Son of God, Jesus.

2. Date of Epiphany in France

The Magi

Although Epiphany officially falls on January 6, not being a national holiday in France, it falls every year on the second Sunday after Christmas, which is the first Sunday of January.

3. How is Epiphany Celebrated in France?

Epiphany Cake

Celebrating Epiphany Day in France means lots of galette des Rois (“king cake” or “Epiphany cake”)! This is the number-one celebration for Epiphany in France. The name derives from the French words for “Magi” and “king,” which are rois mages and roi, respectively.

The galette des Rois is a round-shaped cake that symbolizes the sun, and that people eat with their family and among friends. According to tradition, king cakes are cut into as many pieces as there are guests, plus one. The latter piece, called the “Good Lord’s Piece,” the “Virgin’s Piece,” or the “Poor Man’s Piece,” was meant for the first poor man who would come to the house.

There are different sorts of galettes des Rois in France. In the North of France, it takes the form of a puff pastry cake that can be eaten with jam or filled with marzipan, chocolate, or even fruit. In the South of France, it’s a brioche with preserved fruits in the shape of a crown. The most famous galette, and the best-selling galette in France, is the one made of puff pastry filled with marzipan.

What’s special about the galette des Rois is that it contains a lucky charm, a little figurine. There are two kinds. Every year, bakeries offer a series of charms based on the same theme. For example, there are figurines representing a French celebrity. The fève, or “lucky charm,” is hidden in the galette, and the person who finds it in their piece becomes a king (roi) or queen (reine) for the day. Traditionally, before eating it, the youngest child in the family would hide under the table and designate which person would get each piece of the galette, and thereby tirer les rois, or “choose the king.”

In France, there are those who collect these charms from galettes des Rois. They’re called fabophiles. They look for rare charms in garage sales, antique markets, and even on the Internet. Some figurines can even cost up to 2,000 euros!

4. Special Epiphany Cake for the President

Do you know what’s special about the galette des Rois made for the President of the French Republic?

For the French President, master pastry chefs make a galette without a charm, so he can’t be crowned. This tradition dates to 1975 when President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was given a giant galette measuring one meter in diameter.

5. Essential French Vocabulary for Epiphany

A Figurine

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words we went over in this article? Here’s the must-know vocabulary for Epiphany in France!

  • Reine — “Queen”
  • Roi — “King”
  • Épiphanie — “Epiphany”
  • Frangipane — “Frangipane”
  • Figurine — “Figurine”
  • Galette des Rois — “Epiphany cake”
  • Couronne — “Crown”
  • Tirer les rois — “Choose the king”
  • Fève — “Lucky charm”
  • Rois mages — “Magi”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our French Epiphany vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about the celebration of Epiphany in France with us!

Do you celebrate Epiphany in your country? If so, are traditions similar or very different from those in France? Let us know in the comments; we look forward to hearing from you!

If you’re interested in learning more about French culture, or want some wintery words up your sleeve to get you through the next couple of months, you may find the following pages useful:

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The French Celebration of Armistice Day

How do the French celebrate Armistice Day, and why?

Armistice Day in French culture is one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays. It commemorates the end of WWI, during which France suffered heavy losses. In this article, you’ll learn about his significant public holiday in France, and about French Armistice Day traditions.

At, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Armistice Day?

Cease-Fire Flag

If you know French history, you might know that November 11, 1918, is an important date for French people. In fact, it is a public holiday. This is the date of an armistice, a convention signed by several governments in order to stop combat between their armies. This armistice marked the end of World War I.

World War I was a military conflict that mostly took place in Europe between 1914 and 1918. It was a traumatic war for France, because it was the most heavily affected country, with 1.4-million people dead. It ended when the English, French, and Germans signed the armistice of November 11, 1918.

The last French soldier of WWI, Lazare Ponticelli, died on January 20, 2008, at the age of 110. After his death, it was decided that November 11 should no longer be a commemoration of the soldiers who fought in the First World War, but rather a commemoration of all of the French soldiers who have died during service.

2. French Armistice Day Celebrations & Traditions

A Parade

How do the French mark Armistice Day? What do the French do on Armistice Day?

On each November 11, the President of the French Republic conducts a ritual in order to commemorate this date. He lays a tricolored sheaf in front of the tomb of Georges Clémenceau as a symbol of victory in the Great War. Then, escorted by the Cavalry of the Republican Guard, he goes back up the Champs-Élysées and reviews the troops on Charles-de-Gaulle Square. Finally, he engages in private prayer in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.

Small ceremonies are organized each year in French cities and towns. Usually, they consist of musicians—marching bands, for example—who play some music. French people can go and watch these concerts, which are generally free.

During this public holiday, the President of the Republic wears the Bleuet de France pinned to his buttonhole, as do some other French people. This French flower for Armistice Day symbolizes the support and the solidarity of France to its veterans, widows, and orphans.

3. Brave & Reckless

Do you know what nickname was given to the French soldiers from the First World War?

The French soldiers from the First World War were nicknamed poilus. At the time, the word poilu could mean, in the familiar language, somebody who was courageous and manly. To nickname the French soldiers poilu indicated that they were brave and reckless.

4. Must-Know Vocabulary for Armistice Day in France

Armistice Day Memorial

Here’s the essential vocabulary you should know for Armistice Day in France!

  • Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale — “Armistice Day”
  • Combat — “Fight”
  • Parade — “Parade”
  • Première Guerre mondiale — “World War I”
  • Trêve — “Truce”
  • Solennel — “Solemn”
  • Tombe du soldat inconnu — “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”
  • Mémorial — “Memorial”
  • Cessez-le-feu — “Cease-fire”
  • Accord — “Agreement”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and see them accompanied by relevant images, be sure to visit our French Armistice Day vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about French Armistice Day with us, and that you learned something new. Does your country also have celebrations for the end of World War I? Let us know in the comments!

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Celebrating Assumption Day in France

On Assumption Day, France celebrates the rising of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven. For this reason, it’s often called Assumption of Mary Day.

The Assumption Holy Day reflects the strong Catholic nature of France, being one of the most popular and heavily celebrated holidays in the country. Even non-Catholics like to participate in the fun, often as a final party before the end of summer.

Learn all about The Assumption of Mary Feast Day with, and become more familiar with French culture as a whole. We hope to make this learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Assumption Day?

Assumption celebrates Jesus’s mother, Mary, rising up to Heaven.

As such, the French also recognize Assumption Day as the name day for those named Mary (the most-given name of the twentieth century in France). Since 1946, this name has been given more than two-million times to little French girls!

But is the Assumption a holy day of obligation? Yes, it is; but if the date happens to fall on a Monday or Saturday of a given year, people are not expected to attend the mass.

2. When is Assumption Day?

Man Holding Bible

The date of Assumption in France holds much historical significance.

In the sixth century, the Byzantine emperor Maurice established the Feast Day of the Virgin Mary in his empire every day on August 15. The holiday was introduced to the West by Pope Theodore in the seventh century, and took the name of Assumption starting the following century.

In 1637, King Louis XIII wanted an heir, so he asked his subjects to make a procession every August 15 in every parish, so that his prayer would be granted. Because King Louis XIII’s request was granted the following year, the holiday on August 15 took on special importance.

3. French Assumption Day Traditions

A Church Building

Every year, religious processions have taken place in certain cities in France. For example, after mass, pilgrims carry a statue of the Virgin Mary in the streets and around the neighborhood. On Assumption Day, Paris hosts a procession that has taken place for a few years, on a boat in the Seine, where the silver statue of the Virgin kept in Notre-Dame is taken out.

Though Assumption is a Catholic holiday, even the non-religious in France celebrate. The most common secular celebrations include fireworks in popular cities and neighborhood dances, most of which are free to attend.

During Assumption, the city of Lourdes experiences its busiest day of the year!

4. The End of Summer…

Assumption Day is often associated with the end of summer and the coming of autumn and winter.

As such, there are many sayings about Assumption Day, such as À la mi-août, adieu les beaux jours (meaning “In mid-August, say goodbye to good weather,” in English) and à la mi-août, l’hiver est en route (meaning “In mid-August, winter is on the way,” in English). Indeed, August 15 also symbolizes a summer well-spent, and the approaching autumn.

5. Useful Vocabulary for Assumption Day in France

Virgin Mary in Stained Glass

Here’s the most important vocabulary you should know to celebrate Assumption Day in France!

  • Église — “Church”
  • Assomption — “Assumption Day”
  • Chrétien — “Christian”
  • Assomption — “Assumption”
  • Croyance — “Belief”
  • Dogme — “Dogma”
  • Célébrer — “Celebrate”
  • Festin — “Feast”
  • Jour férié — “Public holiday”
  • Paradis — “Heaven”
  • Vierge Marie — “Virgin Mary”
  • Mort — “Death”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our French Assumption Day vocabulary list! You’ll also find a relevant image with each word to help you remember more effectively!

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End of the French Revolution: Bastille Day in France

Each year, the French commemorate the end of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille fortress. Called Bastille Day everywhere but France itself, this holiday is France’s national day and possibly the most significant public holiday in the country.

By learning about Bastille Day, France’s history and culture will become more clear to you. And as any successful language-learner can tell you, studying culture is a step you can’t miss if you hope to master the beautiful French language.

At, we hope to make this learning experience both fun and effective!

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1. What is Bastille Day?

The nation remembers the storming of the Bastille (otherwise known as the Bastille Day attack) on this holiday, which took place in 1789 during the French Revolution. For this reason, the word Bastille is often associated with our national day, though French people never actually call it “Bastille Day.”

1- The Bastille

Bastille was a fortress and an arsenal destined to defend the East of Paris, which later became a prison by the Cardinal Richelieu.

The storming of this structure on July 14, 1789, symbolizes the French Revolution as a major event of the people’s revolt, the initiation of today’s nation. The first edition of the national day in 1790 was named “the federation party” during this era. It represented the reconciliation of the French by the monarchy constitution under Louis XVI.

The federation party was considered a happy ending to the French Revolution, which lasted ten years with the proclamation of the First Republic under Louis XVI.

Napoléon Bonaparte succeeded him with the establishment of the First Empire at the beginning of the 19th century.

2- Bastille Day History

The true origin of the current national holiday is found in the historic facts of the Republic. It took root with two events at the end of the 19th century.

The first one was the official national day on June 30, 1878, to celebrate the Republic. A painting of Monet exposed in the Museum of Orsay redraws this event in the Montorgueil street situated in the second district. The second celebration unfolded itself July 14, 1879; this one was more popular and semi-official to celebrate the revolution of the French people.

These two marking days resulted in a law proposition in 1880 to establish July 14 as the national day. The senate accepted July 14 to represent the storming of the Bastille Fortress, instead of August 4 to honor the end of the feudal system from the Roman Empire and promoting the strength of the lords by their land.

2. When is Bastille Day?

A Cockade

Bastille Day is celebrated in France each year on July 14.

3. Reading Practice: Bastille Day Celebrations

Decorations for Bastille Day

Do you know how France celebrates its national day? Read the French text below to learn about the Bastille Day parades and other traditions. Check your French reading skills with the English translation directly below it!

Chaque année depuis 1880, a lieu un défilé militaire à Paris, en présence du Président de la République. Les militaires sont à pieds, à cheval, en voiture ou dans des avions. Ils descendent l’avenue des Champs Élysées, la place de l’Étoile et vont jusqu’à la place de la Concorde, où ils saluent le président et son gouvernement. Ce défilé attire des milliers de Français. Ceux qui ne peuvent venir le voir à Paris le regardent à la TV. Les deux chaînes françaises qui diffusent cet évènement attirent des millions de téléspectateurs chaque année.

Le soir, les Français peuvent faire la fête puisque des bals sont organisés dans la plupart des villes. Ils ont le choix car différents styles de bals et de musiques sont proposés au sein même d’une seule ville. A Paris, le bal le plus populaire est le bal des Pompiers. Il est organisé dans la caserne même des pompiers et réunit des personnes de tous les âges, toutes les professions.

Le saviez-vous ? La plupart des Français ignorent que le 14 Juillet célèbre deux évènements. En général, ils pensent que c’est en la mémoire de la prise de la Bastille uniquement ! La Fête de la Fédération reste méconnue, même en France.

Every year since 1880, a military parade has taken place in Paris in front of the President of the Republic. The soldiers are on foot, on horseback, in vehicles, or flying in planes. They go down the Champs Élysées boulevard, the Place de l’Étoile, and all the way to Place de la Concorde, where they salute the President and his government. This parade attracts thousands of French people. Those who cannot come to see it in Paris watch it on TV. The two French channels that broadcast this event draw millions of viewers each year.

At night, the French have an opportunity to party, since dances are organized in most cities. They have a choice, as many different styles of dances and music are offered in each city. In Paris, the most popular dance is the Bal des Pompiers. It is organized in the firefighters’ actual firehouse, and brings people together of all ages and professions.

Did you know? Most French people don’t know that July 14 celebrates two events. In general, they think that it only celebrates the taking of the Bastille. The Fête de la Fédération remains little-known, even in France.

4. Fireworks in France!

On the evening of July 14, French people can see fireworks being set off in most cities. This is a tradition that has existed since the creation of this national holiday in 1880. In Paris, the Trocadéro fireworks alone bring together thousands of visitors.

5. Essential Vocabulary for Bastille Day

Depiction of a Noble

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Bastille Day in France!

  • Roi — “King”
  • Fête nationale — “Bastille Day”
  • Révolution française — “French Revolution”
  • Cocarde — “Cockade”
  • Bourgeoisie — “Bourgeoisie”
  • Sans-culottes — “Sans-culottes
  • Révolutionnaire — “Revolutionary”
  • Noblesse — “Nobility”
  • Noble — “Noble”
  • Monarchie — “Monarchy”
  • Guillotine — “Guillotine”
  • Prise de la Bastille — “Storming of the Bastille”

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our French Bastille Day vocabulary list.


We hope you enjoyed learning about Bastille Day and its history with us! Did you learn anything new about France’s national day? What does your country’s national holiday look like? Let us know in the comments! We always look forward to hearing from you.

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Happy Bastille Day!

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