Fête de l’Assomption
The 15th August is the festival of l’Assomption, celebrated by Catholics throughout France and commemorating the departure of Mary from this life and the assumption of her body into heaven.
The origins of this religious festival are not entirely clear, but it is said that the date became a public holiday in the 17th century under King Louis XIII. In 1637, who asked his subjects to host processions across the land in honour of the Virgin Mary, hoping she would grant him a son, after 20 years of marriage without producing a male heir,
The very next year, in 1638, Louis XIV was born and the date became a jour férié.
Each year following this ‘miracle’, pilgrims would head to Lourdes on the 15th August and it was also on this date in 1858 that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young shepherdess, Bernadette Soubirous, today known as Our Lady of Lourdes, in the Grotte de Massabielle.
Devout Catholics all over France make pilgrimages to religious sites on this day.
The date has also been appropriated by non-Catholics as a mid-summer celebration so whatever your beliefs, there will be plenty of entertainment for everyone.
Most shops close (although some small shops and supermarkets remain open in the morning) and there are festivities, concerts, fireworks and more in most towns and villages.
Contact your local Office de Tourisme for more info.
*Assumption comes from the Latin word assumptionem meaning taking or receiving, and developed into the noun we know today when it shook off its religious roots and became used to describe “the act of assuming or taking for granted”.