Today is a bank holiday in France. There is no school, no mail, and of course the banks are closed. It is Ascension. The fortieth day after Easter is set aside to remember the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven. It is clearly a day that is connected to the church and religion, yet it is recognized and “celebrated”, by taking the day off, by the French State which takes pride in being secular.
France is somewhat famous for and proud of their well-defined laws of separation of church and state. You are free to practice any religious belief you would like, but be sure that it does not overlap into politics, government, or the personal life of your neighbors and other individuals around you. We have heard many Frenchmen, and women, say, “France is a secular state…except when it comes to holidays. Then we make an exception.”
It’s true! France loves their holidays. Who doesn’t want a day off from work? It is just quite humorous that the country prides itself on being a picture of secularization with Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity (community or brotherhood) being the official motto for France, an expression from the French Revolution that was officially adopted as part of their 1958 constitution, yet they set the secular aside when it comes to celebrating religious holidays.
This holiday falls on a Thursday which enlists another French tradition, making “the bridge”. Because the holiday is on a Thursday many employers, much to the satisfaction of their employees, also close up shop on Friday so that everyone can have a nice long weekend. They “bridge” the Thursday holiday to the weekend. Of course that Friday is not an official holiday so the post office and banks will be opened, but many government offices and private businesses will be closed.
This is by no means a critique of France. We love France! We count it a privilege to live and work here. It just makes us chuckle sometimes when we think about this “proud to be secular” country that goes out of its way to be sure and observe all of the religious holidays.
May God continue to bless you, as you share His blessings on your life with those around you!
Shane and Joy