May Day and Other Days in May
The street is so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. It’s May 1st — Labor Day — and no doubt, no one is working…except perhaps us Americans, many with whom I have already had contact, seemingly virtually ignoring the holiday.
The weather, is as dismal as it gets for a May 1st: 50 degrees fahrenheit, cloudy, with a 20% chance of rain. The picnic I planned for the Place des Vosges has been moved to my apartment and already word is coming in that some would prefer to stay at home and get some work done than venture out into the unpleasant weather. (One email just came in: “Hiya, I would love to come but I just can’t do it. I have too much work to get done before Friday and I can’t take the afternoon off. 🙁 Enjoy!!”)
Someone warned that I should stop complaining about the weather, lest Paris could lose its luster to our Francophile audience who sees the city through rose-colored glasses. The truth is that Paris is still beautiful in the rain and often even more beautiful, particularly at night when the streets glimmer from the beads of moisture…but when your well-planned picnic ends up indoors because the expectation of a warm spring is thwarted by the typical Paris climate, it can naturally dampen good spirits.
Oh well, maybe we should see this as a ‘blessing in disguise’ to get work done we wouldn’t have otherwise. Do you think the French would have this perspective?
May is France’s most holiday-ridden month, beginning with today — Labor Day.
Then, May 8th is celebrated as “Victory Day” — “when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, thus ending the war in Europe.” (Wikipedia.org) This year is the 68th anniversary and will be celebrated all over France including the usual military parade and ceremonies on the Champs-Elysées. For more information, visit france.fr.
The next day is Ascension — May 9th. This marks the day that Jesus ascended to heaven, according to Christian belief, following his crucifixion and resurrection. Pentecôte (also known as Whit Sunday) is next, on May 19th. This is a Christian holiday inspired by the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the arrival of the ‘holy spirit’ 50 days after Easter. While both are religious holidays, and France is secular, they still manage to be considered public holidays. Because Pentecôte always falls on a Sunday, it gets treated much like any other day off.
The day after, however, is another public holiday…another reason to “faire le pont” — bridge the days off to take a long weekend…although it’s best when the holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday so the bridge is stretched even longer, making for a four-day weekend instead of just three!
May 1st Labor Day always strikes me funny, since it’s never just the one day that is taken off from work, but many days throughout the entire month. It can be both a good and bad time to travel to France — as many things will be closed to the public, museums and such, but the entry lines to other sights may be lessened, traffic will be reduced and restaurants more available (if they are open!).
Workaholics may find May a great time to get things done (like us Americans), while “fonctionnaires” (civil servants) and company personnel will enjoy lots of free time with their friends and family in (what is usually) good weather.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
(on May 1st, 2012 at Place des Vosges)
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