The Holidays

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Holidays Cookies at the Byward Market

Holidays Cookies at the Byward Market

Are you guys on holidays yet?

Seems like it. It’s pretty quiet these days, except in malls throughout the city where people apparently have a blast buying the gifts Santa didn’t bring them.

Alright, let’s talk about holidays then!

The other day, I was reading Priyank’s blog, who wrote his “9 clue I’m becoming Canadian“. He noticed the following in Canada:

Holidays that are conveniently placed on certain days of week (as opposed to fixed dates) no longer surprise me. For e.g. Labour day is first Monday of September, Thanksgiving is second Monday in October, Family Day (ON) is third Monday of February, etc. I love talking about looking forward to the long weekend, planning trips for the long weekend, etc.

After reading, I paused and realized it was true — one of these funny little cultural differences I hadn’t noticed.

When I first came to Canada, I had been warned: there are much less holidays on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, and no public strike will change labor laws. Looking back, I can say the system is different but not in a bad way.

France has 11 Public Holidays per year. With the exception of those associated with Easter, public holidays are fixed and can’t be attached to the nearest week-end. That said, if the holiday is on a Thursday or Friday, many French “font le pont” (“make the bridge”) and just take the whole period off.

In Canada, the number of Public Holidays is a bit harder to calculate because some are federal while others are provincial. That said, the average calculated by Stats Can is… 11 days. That’s right, the same as in France. And in Canada, like Priyank noticed, a lot of holidays are placed at the end of the week so that people can have a long week-end. Oh, and if a Public Holiday occurs on a day that is normally not worked, then “… another day off with pay will be provided.” Cool, eh?

Alright: France 1 — Canada 1.

On a side note, most public holidays in France are related either to Christianity (Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Whit Monday) or to history (Bastille Day, Remembrance Day and Victory in Europe Day).

In Canada, some public holidays were just proclaimed as such and have little significance other than “yipee, I don’t work today and I still get paid”. For instance, Family Day and Civic Holiday. Québec also has the funny “vacances de la construction” (Construction Holiday) which takes place during the last two weeks of July. It applies officially only to the construction industry but many take their vacations during these two weeks.

How about for vacation? There is indeed a big difference between Canada and France. Labor law is complicated but most employees enjoy as much as 5 weeks paid vacation time a year. For some reason, the only time French ever consider to take their holidays is between July 14th and August 15th: resorts and beaches (especially in Southern France) are packed at this time of the year and this is the worse time to travel because freeways can be jammed for kilometers. Nonetheless, few French even consider not taking holidays during the summer and the country is said to be divided between “juilletistes” (people taking holidays in “juillet”, July) and “aoutiens” (people taking holidays in “août”, August).

Nearly all Canadian provinces require at least two weeks of paid vacation time a year. When taking their holidays, Canadians are more flexible. Well, for a start, a lot of people want to escape winter and week long sunny getaway in Florida, Mexico or the Caribbeans are popular from November to March. Some do take a vacation during the summer, especially to go camping or stay at the cottage.Others just take a long week-end here and there.

Granted, two weeks a year of paid vacation time isn’t much. It actually scares a lot of immigrants: going home overseas for only two weeks isn’t very realistic. The solution? Unpaid vacation time. Some employers are quite flexible with that. It is also worth noting that workdays are somewhat shorter and less stressful on this side of the Atlantic. In an office environment, it’s common to start between 8am and 10 am and to finish no later than 5pm. Working overtime isn’t usually praised: it can actually be not well thought of because it means you are not efficient!

Alright, I let you enjoy the rest of your holidays… if you have some! I’m in Toronto for a few days… before going back to work next week.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Two weeks of paid vacation translate into 10 days or 14 days?

    Malaysia has lots of public holidays, probably second only to Thailand. If a public holiday falls on Sunday, we get replacement on Monday. But if it falls on Saturday, we are out of luck. Next Christmas and New Year Day 2011 will be on Saturday, so you know I won’t be happy 😛

    Many employers complain that Malaysia has way too many public holidays, and it affects productivity. But as a part-time MBA student, I just can’t have enough.
    .-= khengsiong´s last blog ..Misadventure in Kuala Selangor =-.

  2. In the good old USofA we have 10 Federal Holidays, different states may add another day or two. Vacation days for employees are at the discretion of the employer as negotiated with the workers. Corporate jobs typically start out with 2 weeks (10 work days) and increase with length of service. After 25 years with my employer I had 6 weeks. Unfortunately, some low paying hourly jobs provide neither vacation or health benefits under the understanding that the employee is a “contract” employee. This may change with the government under new management.
    .-= Tulsa Gentleman´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  3. Even with 10 Federal holidays each year, as Tulsa Gentleman said, some of us don’t get the “smaller” holidays off. I have to work on MLK Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day if they occur during the workweek, however my company usually has a “company holiday” in mid-February to give us a bit of a break since there is nothing else between New Year’s and Memorial Day.

    It should be noted that while Columbus Day is a federal holiday, the state of Nevada does not observe it. Instead we observe Nevada Day, which is October 31 and celebrates our state’s admission into the Union.
    .-= Kirsten´s last blog ..Christmas Wrap-Up =-.

  4. The holiday rule does sound scary from the other shore. I get 31 days paid vacation per year plus 12 days of festival leaves (because Christmas, Easter, or any other commonly accepted “holidays” aren’t holidays for us). I guess when in Rome… 😉

    Happy New Year, have fun Zhu 🙂
    .-= Nigel Babu´s last blog ..Pushing 150 kg =-.

  5. Ha ha… Only 11 days in France?
    We have up to 13 days in Malaysia.
    You see, we have so many different people there, you’ll be amazed that Christmas is also a public holiday in Malaysia even majority of our population is Muslim. Then, we have Chinese New Year (2 days break), Indian Deepavali, Muslim Eid, King’s birthday, etc.
    No wonder, we are so lazy in Malaysia! Ha ha… We’re spoiled with too much time!!

    Happy New Year!
    .-= London Caller´s last blog ..Subzero Hogmanay / 零下的除夕 / Hogmanay bawah sifar / 零下の大晦日 =-.

  6. I’m so interested by your reaction to the differences in holidays. I agree with Tulsa Gentleman and Kirsten though. In the US at least, just because a holiday is a Federal holiday doesn’t mean you’ll get time off of work, and almost certainly not school for things like Veterans Day and Presidents’ Day. Then you only get two weeks of vacation a year and just a few sick days or personal days. To Americans the French system seems like a dream. I got spoiled by working in France as a teacher – seven and a half weeks of paid vacation during the school year and then two months off in the summer! I’m unfit to work in any other profession in any other country!
    .-= Soleil´s last blog ..Happy New Year! =-.

  7. Well my dear, Norway certaintly wins on this front! I am not sure how many public holidays there are, but it is probably close to 11. Most people have 4-5 weeks paid holidays, but that does not stop them from taking another 4-5 weeks of paid holidays in a cheeky fashion… most offices are empty by noon on Friday! And that does not include the 12 paid sick days that most people take to look after their sick children who cannot attend school! In general, the whole country takes the month of July off, a week at xmas, and a week at Easter… with lots of other bits in between (winter holiday in Feb, autumn holiday in Sep / Oct)! No complaints, except when you are trying to get things done to deadlines, which can be frustrating at times! Oh well. Hope you enjoy all of 2010!

  8. Mm, I love holiday cookies! Unfortunately, gingerbread men aren’t that common in Manila, but some coffee shops do carry them.

    I think that I’d settle for less paid vacation days if my work hours got reduced to Canadian hours, because as it is, employers here are quite stingy with giving out paid holidays (even if they’re legally required to, haha). It’s not uncommon for bosses to make people work on holidays, though it is quite understandable since our president is so fond of giving out special holidays for all sorts of things…
    .-= Lizz´s last blog ..B.B. Cream Review: Skin79 Diamond Crystal Pearl Lightning 3D =-.

  9. @khengsiong – Good question! I believe it’s 14 days but I could be wrong. For the past few years, I either took non-paid holidays or cashed out my days.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Low paying jobs are the worst off because they don’t benefit from an attractive benefit package and from what I understand, labor law is quite “weak” in the U.S.A. It’s the same in France and in Canada though. With the current economic situation, a lot of people are working two minimum wage jobs and get no benefits at all.

    @Gean Oliveira – I’m sorry we missed each other! Not sure if you got my text message?

    @Seraphine – I understand! Generally speaking, European labor laws favor workers more than North American labor law. Here, you pretty much have to suck it up during bad times…

    @Kirsten – Same in Canada, when you work in minimum wage jobs or in the service industry, you don’t get a lot of the holidays. You are supposed to but there is always a way around.

    @Nigel Babu – I must admit I have never really worked in France so it wasn’t a huge shock to me. It’s not like I experienced a lot of holidays before anyway and my parents are self-employed… so no holidays either.

    @London Caller – I had always thought France had a lot of holidays… but Malaysia beats it!

    @Beth – I wish, but I’m not sure whether I will get vacations this year!

    @Bluefish – Thank you, et bonne année à toi aussi!

    @Soleil – Because I have never really worked in France and because both of my parents are self-employed, I wasn’t “spoiled” so getting used to Canada’s labor law wasn’t hard. Now, I can see why some French complain though!

    @beaverboosh – Nice! I had always heard Norway had great labor laws, as well as various “leaves” such as long maternity leave. Lucky you!

    @Agnes – Same to you!

    @RennyBA’s Terella – Lucky you guys! You have a great system!

  10. We are kinda lucky here in England. There are 8 national holidays, then usually companies give around 25 days vacation leave. I work in the manufacturing sector, so we have fixed period where the whole company shuts down – one week at the beginning of June and 2 weeks at the beginning of August. That usually leaves a week or so to take when we like. As I have been working for Honda for 15 years, I get an extra vacation day for each 5 years that I have worked there. I always feel that staying at home on a vacation day is a waste of opportunity, so always try and visit somewhere – whether it is another town or village in the UK or somewhere further afield.

    Now that we are in the new year, I am trying to decide where to go this year. There are sooooo many choices. I may end up throwing a dart at a dart board, and going where ever it lands…lol!

    Happy holidays to you xx
    .-= Graham´s last blog ..A Christmas Trip To The City Of London – Part 2 =-.

  11. This is the way to get the flavour of a place. My travelling days are gone, almost before they started, but pictures can leave an almost truthful comment behind or they can become a truth in their own right. Hope I can figure out how not to forget about you Juliette, help me not to if you can find the time. And if you have a favourite picture (as art) that seems flawed, please mail it to me to alter for a post. Thanks.
    .-= bob loosemore´s last blog ..Tips for Better Pics. =-.

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