The Lundi de Pentecote is first known as a powerful religious celebration following Easter, but for a few years, Whit Monday has also got controversial connotations in France. The French Government has indeed used this public holiday to create a new Solidarity Day for which people would work without being payed. A big issue about French public holidays that mixes Tradition and Economy!
Whit Monday has been one of the 11 French bank holidays for a very long time. It is particularly appreciated, providng a relaxing break and often sunny - 3-day weekend. A prime time for families and friends to get together and enjoy traditional French social time, food and wine!
Pentecost Monday is indeed part of the four public holidays in May which give French people the opportunity to go for a long weekend break - called Pont ("bridge") in French.
Following Whitsun, the Lundi de Pentecôte is actually part of a religious tradition held 50 days after Easter to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (disciples of Jesus Christ). The British name, "Whit Monday", derives from Whitsunday which refer to the white garments worn on Pentecost by the newly baptized, whilst the French national holiday is called "Lundi de Pentecôte", originating from pentêkostê meaning "fiftieth" in Greek.
In 2005, the French government decided to remove Whit Monday from the list of the official public holidays in France. It was then question to turn this national holiday into a "Solidarity Day" (Journée de Solidarité). This special day would be a way of raising extra money in support of disabled and old people. Even though some French people were attracted by the idea of Solidarity, many others - especially labour unions - protested and took the day off anyway to perpetuate the tradition.
Whit Monday was eventually reinstated as a "national bank holiday" in 2008, and the French Ministery of Labour allowed employers to set the so-called Solidarity Day at any moment of the year.
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