Why is August 15th a public holiday in France? Origin and story of the Assumption

Published by Caroline J. · Published on 9 August 2021 at 08h04
This Saturday August 15, 2020 is the Assumption. Alongside other celebrations such as Christmas, the Ascension and All Saints’ Day, the Assumption is celebrated by many Catholics every year. But do you know the story and origin behind this public holiday in France? We tell you more about it.

France enjoys 11 public holidays (religious and civil celebrations). Among them, the Assumption taking place every summer on August 15th. Careful though, you shall not mistake it with the Ascension, celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter.

 If many people enjoy the 15th of August because it is another public holiday in the year, others do not forget this is first and foremost a religious celebration. Every August 15th, Christians commemorate the assumption of Jesus’ mother Mary into Heaven. That day, according to the Catholic faith, the Virgin Mary has been bodily “taken up into Heaven” at the end of her earthly life.

Day off, August 15 is the occasion for believers to celebrate this day but also to gather together to share and pray. Moreover, every year, many of them go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

But where does the celebration of the Assumption come from in France and why is August 15th a public holiday? It originates back to the reign of Louis XIII (1610-1643), son of Henri IV and Marie de’ Medici. As they struggle to produce an heir with his wide, Anne of Austria, the king starts praying the Virgin Mary. Processions in parishes are even held on August 15. Miracle, in 1637, the young Louis – who will become Louis XIV – is born. Louis XIII then decides that August 15th will be a Marian celebration, honoring the Virgin Mary.

August 15th is all the more so as important than before, this date has been chosen to be French national day from 1806 to 1813. But ultimately, the 14th of July is picked and definitively decreed as the national day in 1880, and August 15th is named public holiday. As for the “assumption” word, it only appears in 1950 when pope Pie XII decides to make the dogma of the Assumption official.

And discover what to do on August 15, 2020 in Paris:

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On Sunday August 15, 2021, many Parisian museums and monuments are open, so you can make the most of this public holiday. What monuments or museums will you discover? [Read more]

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Need to go shopping on Sunday August 15, 2021? Check the opening hours of shopping malls for a serene spree in Paris and Île-de-France! [Read more]

Practical information

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