Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday in English, le Lundi de Pentecôte in French, this day is usually the last of four public holidays in May, celebrated this year (2018) on Sunday 20th May.
In fact, it is a ‘movable feast’ in the Christian calendar, a religious tradition which takes place 50 days after Easter, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit amongst Jesus’s Apostles. The word ‘Pentecôte’, originates from ‘pentêkostê’ meaning ‘fiftieth’ (day) in Greek.
Pentecôte was a public holiday until 2005, when the French government, led by President Chirac, decided to cancel it!
After the heat wave of 2003, which caused the deaths of an estimated 13,000 elderly people in France, the government wanted to use this day to raise funds to better support the elderly and disabled.
They called it ‘Solidarity Day’ (Journée de Solidarité), and asked workers to work this day for no extra pay.
But this is France! After several years of demonstrations, with the majority of the French work force resolutely sticking to their guns and remaining at home, Lundi de Pentecôte was reinstated as a public holiday in 2008.
Incidentally, did you know that ‘Whit Monday’, comes from the white robes worn on Pentecost by those who have been newly baptised?