France commemorates many different days and events each year. Some military, some religious, some cultural but always with a strong commitment to honouring their history. Here is a selection of the grand and the intimate.
The 6th of January is Epiphanie, the ‘Feast of the King’ which marks the Magi visit to the Christ Child. Each family will have a ‘Galette des Rois’ baked with a novelty item. Whoever finds the item, wears a paper crown and is designated a King or Queen for the day.
July 14th is the Fête National or Bastille Day. This commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress and political prison, in 1789 marking the start of the French Revolution. One of the most widely celebrated days of the entire year brings whole communities out in the streets. Up and down the country you will find communal outdoor events with fireworks, music and dining along with a military parade down the Champs Elysées in Paris.
France maintains a strong connection to its Catholic routes with estimates ranging between 41% and 88% of the population. This is reflected in its calendar with as many as six bank holidays a year commemorating Catholic events including Jour de l’Ascension (Ascension Day – April or May), Pentecôte (Pentecost Sunday – May or June), L’Assomption (Assumption of Virgin Mary – August 15th) and La Toussaint (All Saint’s Day – November 1st).
One thing you will notice as you travel across France are the frequent, seemingly innocuous memorials. France goes to great lengths to record and remember its history. A perfect example is this memorial to the crew of ‘Betty L’, a US Air Force bomber that was shot down during WW2 in Vallères. There are many such examples and each is carefully cared for and maintained by their commune.
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Abbey of Fontenay
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