May Day and Other Days: Bridging the Cultural Gap to Work or Not
Monday, May 4, 2015 • Paris, France
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May Day was a bust because the annual picnic at Place des Vosges got washed out by light drizzles, cool air and gray skies. As we picnicked inside in comfort, not a peep could be heard on the streets on the annual one day of the year 'almost' NO ONE works -- Labor Day in France. Americans I know rarely even think of it -- not only do they work 24/7, even when living in France, but because the American Labor Day is the first Monday in September, May seems like an odd time to celebrate.
Germans marching into ParisModern VE Day celebration May 8The whit dove of Pentecost
May is THE month of holidays and getting anything done is a challenge while offices close to "faire le pont." This is an idiomatic expression meaning "make a bridge" or taking "an extra day off work in addition to a public holiday that falls on a Thursday or Tuesday, thereby making a four-day weekend. If the public holiday falls on Wednesday, the individual has the option of taking either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday off." (wiktionary.org/wiki/faire_le_pont)
The French LOVE their "ponts." They will take every opportunity and the month of May is ripe with them. Official 'bank' holidays in May include:
Friday, May 1: May Day, International Workers Day Friday, May 8: Victory in Europe Day Thursday, May 14: Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter Sunday, May 24: Mothers Day, last Sunday in May, not a public holiday and Pentecost Monday, May 25: Whitmonday, 7th Monday after Easter, also known as Pentecost Monday
This means that this coming weekend is yet another "pont," as is the weekend after, as is the weekend after that. Four weekends out of five in May provide extra days off work and I'll bet the Americans won't be taking them with the same enthusiasm as their French counterparts. In fact, we don't even know what to do with ourselves if we're not working -- except of course, those lucky enough to be retired or simply visiting.
Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day or VE Day) is the day "the World War II Allies formally accepted an unconditional surrender by the armed forces of Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, after six years of the bloodiest conflict in human history." That morning, President François Hollande has certain duties to perform beginning at 9 a.m. with the Ceremony of awards of the national competition of the resistance and deportation, followed at 10:30 a.m. with the Ceremony of the anniversary of Victory of May 8, 1945 at the Arc de Triomphe. There are celebrations all over France and normally there is a military parade along the Champs-Elysées. Stay tuned for coverage on France24.com if you can't be there in person.
Ascension might not mean much to you if you are not a practicing Christian (the day that Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection), but during the "pont," Europe is adding to the festivities by holding the "Nuit des Musées" (Night of Museums) on Saturday, May 16th, when many museums will be open late (until 1 a.m.) and free to the public. This is the 11th edition with more than 1,300 museums in France open to more than two million visitors, along with more than 3,000 museums in other parts of Europe taking part in the festival of culture.
Mother's Day is celebrated Stateside this coming Sunday, but in France, it's on the 24th. That's great for us American mothers living in France as we get to celebrate with our children and our mothers twice in one month!
Another religious holiday with which to "faire le pont" is Pentecost that falls on Sunday the 24th and Monday the 25th. This is when the Holy Spirit of Jesus descended on his followers and a great day to visit a church service, even if not religious, to hear the trumpets blow that symbolize the mighty wind that blew when the spirit descended. It is also a day of baptism and is marked by the symbol of a white dove.
When May is over and we all go back to work on a regular schedule, we'll be able get a bit more accomplished...until, of course, celebrations around Bastille Day (July 14th) begin and the onset of the summer holiday season when the whole of Europe is on the beaches and we're back to square one... getting nothing done.
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