What Is Victory In Europe Day And How Is It Celebrated In France?

You may not have heard of Victory in Europe day, aka VE day or simply V day, but it’s an important day in history to Europeans, especially the French. But what exactly is it and how is it celebrated?

What is Victory In Europe day?

On May 7th, 1945, in a little red schoolhouse in Reims France, “the Headquarters of the Allied Force” Nazi General Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender of Germany in Europe.

Germans surrendor in Reim France marking the end of world war two

Document signed by the germans to surrendor on May 7th 1945 in Reims France to take effect on the 8th of May


The surrender was to take effect the next day on May 8th, 1945 when Charles De Gaule would announce the end of the war in Europe.  

It marked the end of Adolf Hitler’s war and when news broke the next day, it ignited celebrations around the world. Hitler had already committed suicide by this time.  

8th of may newspaper in France announcing victory in Europe and the surrender of the Nazi Germany

In London alone, over a million people gathered in Trafalgar Square all the way up to Buckingham Palace, where Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth and her father King George VI, appeared on the balcony of the palace to cheering crowds.

In the United States, over 500 thousand people gathered in Time Square to celebrate and in France huge crowds went to Paris to celebrate.

Churchill waves to crawds on the day he broadcast that the war with Germany had been won on 8th of may 1945

Who celebrates VE day?

For some of the allied countries, V-day is a public holiday with a lot of Fanfare and military parades while other countries don’t make a thing of it at all.

VE Day In France:

May 8th: Public holiday.

In France, Victory in Europe Day “jour de la Victoire en Europe”, is a Patriotic public holiday celebrated on May 8th.

Banks and most businesses are closed. Supermarkets are closed or close early. There is no school and the buses and trains run on a special holiday schedule.

Depending on which city you are in, you might see parades,  flags, wreaths and flowers to commemorate soldiers lost to the war and victims of the Holocaust.

In Paris, there is usually a special celebration along the Champs-Elysees attended by Veterans and the French President complete with a military parade and a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldiers which lies directly beneath the Arc de Triomphe.

victory in Europe day in La Garde France small gathering at a war memorial near our house.

Pictured above is a very small celebration in the small French town we lived in Provence.

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You might be interested in reading about all the other french holidays that happen in May.


In Russia & the Former Soviet Union:

May 9th : Public holiday

In Russia, Armenia, Latvia and other former Soviet States VE day is mainly known as Victory Day, celebrated on the 9th of May for the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. President Vladimir Putin called it the country’s “biggest holiday”.  It’s also known as “The Great Patriotic War” in Russia.

VE Day Celebrations In Germany

May 8th: Public holiday.

Germany celebrates Victory in Europe day on the 8th of May but they call it “Liberation Day” to celebrate liberation from the Nazi government and Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

United States

May 8th is observed but it’s not a public holiday in the US. 

After the surrender of Germany, the war continued in the Pacific for another 4 months until the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki which made their surrender inevitable.

Victory Day also known as VJ Day in the US (J is for Japan), commemorates the victory over Japan and their surrender on August 15th, 1941 calling an end to World War II for good.

Because of the controversy behind the atomic bombs, the US does not celebrate victory day with the exception of Rhode Island where it is celebrated on the second Monday of August each month.

VJ day: famouse photograph of sailor kissing nurse in Time square

The famous photo

There was a famous photo published in Life magazine which featured a sailor returning home from the war and kissing a woman in times square. It was taken on August 14, 1945—VJ day.

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Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.


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  1. Hi Annie
    What a wonderful website you have created here! Such a joy to read about your family and life in France.

    Being form Eastern Europe myself, Victory Day is a HUGH day for me. My grandfather was killed during WWII in Yugoslavia fighting with fascists there.

    And, however, Victory day for our part of the world is on May 9 (because of time difference we became aware of the end of the war after midnight), it’s still our mutual European holiday. Usually we take our children to the monuments, bringing there flowers and watching concerts, trying to explain to our children what it is all about. (Not only a nuisance of closed shops and “just a sudden day off”) :)

    1. Regina,
      thank you for your kind words. This website is a labour of love…I try to make it feed my soul while helping others who dream about living abroad by giving them a glimpse into life in France.

      I did notice that certain european countries celebrate on the 9th and was not quite sure why but your explanation cleared it up for me.

      Too bad north Americans don’t celebrate this day. In the least it would make more children and young people aware of this important day..

  2. Just think, you guys could have stayed home and even in bed a little longer had you known about the holiday. See Annie, that’s just one more thing I would not have thought about.

    That wouldn’t be good if I showed up on a holiday and couldn’t catch any transportation or I’m wanting to hit the grocery store only to learn the majority of them or closed.

    I do believe though that their holidays are definitely worth celebrating. Especially the end of the World War.

    Thanks for giving us another little bit of history Annie.


    1. LOL Adrienne, you are so right, i could and should have stayed in bed but it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY on that day.

      I am so paranoid about public holidays in France i mark them on our calendar because it means i have to stock up on food. EUropean fridges tend to be small. ours only holds about 3 days worth of food for our crew. So i have to plan accordingly. LOL.

  3. Hi Annie

    It’s a shame but we don’t do anything for VE day here in the UK. It passed me by and I didn’t notice.

    It’s not usually a bank holiday in the UK either. There’s a May Day bank holiday early in May and sometimes that coincides with VE Day but it’s not specifically to celebrate that.

    Since I’m no longer working, I don’t even notice when there are bank holidays either.

    1. Interesting Tim. I wonder why it is that the French have made it a public holiday. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that the official signing of the surrender of the Germans happened in Reins France?
      In general, nothing really happened in our town other than flowers and flags lining the streets. Life went on as normal for us other than the fact that i could not buy any milk because the stores were closed. :)

  4. Hi Annie,

    It surely must have been frustrating to keep going to her school and later finding out that it was a holiday. :)

    Our country’s yearly holiday calender is well chalked out, but yes, we do have local holidays very often that we sometimes don’t come to know of and when we know of it, we’ve already got them ready and taken them to school. While kids enjoy the sudden holiday from the school, it surely does add up to my work schedule :)

    Thanks for sharing this. Have a nice week ahead :)

    1. Hi Halreena,
      You are so right that the kids love all the additional holidays. We tend to celebrate both US holidays and French holidays which is kind of fun.

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