Ascension Day In France. What Is It And What Do People Do?

Ascension Day In France

Ascension Day in France is yet another religious holiday you should watch out for in the month of May even if you are not Christian or Catholic because it’s also a public holiday where many of the services and businesses you rely on shut down.

What to expect on Ascension Day?

In France, Ascension day is not a day of being productive.

It is a public holiday where everything except crucial services come to a complete halt or have special modified hours. Buses and some trains run on a modified less frequent time schedule. Kids have no school, banks and post offices are closed and even restaurants close.

I have found that boulangeries tend to stay open at least part of the day so you can be sure to get your daily baguette. Thank GOD! No pun intended.

**Note in larger cities like Paris you may find more things open like restaurants and certain stores. On the flip side.  Small businesses may also be closed on the Friday and Saturday after Ascension Day. 

Contrast that to the US, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom where Ascension day is not a public holiday and usually is only observed and celebrated within a church community. .

What and When is Ascension day?

Ascension Day is a religious holiday that marks the end of the Easter season and commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven, according to the New Testament of the Bible.

After Jesus died on the cross, he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples and to more than 500 others and taught them about the kingdom of god. 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus and his disciples went to Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem and promised his followers that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. He then instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come. Then Jesus blessed them, and began to ascend into heaven. The account of Jesus’ ascension is found in Luke 24:50-51andActs 1:9-11.

What do people do?

Just like the US, Canada and the UK, some Christians in France attend a special church services to mark the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Some small towns hold cultural or sporting events the following weekend.  For those people who are not Christian or non practising Christians, Ascension day is an opportunity to enjoy a day off and spend time with family, friends or just relaxing.

When is ascension day?

Ascension day always falls on Thursday and usually occurs in the month of May. I say usually because it is observed and celebrated on the 40th day of Easter so it’s date varies just like Easters date varies. Every so often it happens to fall in June. In France, when a holiday falls on a Thursday, businesses, banks ad schools usually take the Friday off as well turning the event into a 4 day weekend (called “le pont”), the bridge.


Even if you are not a practising Catholic or Christian, you will enjoy a day to relax with your family and Friends on this day if you live in France. Just make sure you have enough food stocked in the fridge since most food stores may be closed Thursday and possibly Friday too.  Since Ascension day falls on a Thursday why not take an extra long four day weekend like many French people do?

What we plan to do

Since Ascension day falls in late May, we usually pack a few baguettes with some drinks and head down to the beach.

About the Author

Annie André Is a half Thai, half French Canadian/American freelance writer, digital marketer and author of THE LIVE IN FRANCE GUIDE: an expat travel and lifestyle blog featuring destination guides, inspiration, travel tips, personal advice and anecdotes on working, living and playing in France. ( Equal parts weird, wacky and wonderful).

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