Today is Labor Day in France (and most of the world in fact). It’s a special day here, the only day when the entire country stops working, and unlike the US where Labor Day marks buckling down and going back to school, it’s the unofficial start of summer here. Sundays, even though they are supposedly the day of rest, are different; although it’s against the law for most shops to be open, some still are, especially small, family run shops. Or boulangeries (French people do love their fresh bread!). Buses and trams still run, McDonalds is open until midnight and there is activity as normal in touristy areas.
But today is different- everything is closed, even the public transportation shuts down, at least in the city in which I live. It’s a day for people to be with their families, in parks or at home, a day to celebrate being able to work by taking some time off!
Another funny thing about today is that it’s the one day where people are legally allowed to sell things in the streets (not themselves, of course!), and political parties usually sell small bouquets of lily-of-the-valley to finance their work. France’s legal system considers that it protects small business owners and private individuals by not allowing people to sell things without the proper permits; garage sales are illegal for example, unless run by an association. So today really is special in a lot of ways.
I like this holiday quite a lot now that I have a car, and a house, and a family, and have something to do instead of being trapped at home all day wondering what to do! But I can imagine that, as many people that are happy about having the day off (and a three day weekend to boot), there still are others who feel that it’s just one more day to get through, and even worse, without the distraction of shopping, or being able to get around on public transport.
So, here’s to all who have jobs, and are able to take time off! And to those who don’t have that luxury, here’s to hoping that this time next year you’ll be able to celebrate the start of summer by wishing for a day off yourself.
Happy Labor Day!
What’s your favorite public holiday? When does summer start for you?