France’s Victory Day: May 8
Victory Day is a public holiday in France.
Every year, France marks the end of the Second World War on the 8th of May. While there is no universal agreement as to the official end date of World War II, France considers May 8, 1945 as the official end of the war which marks Germany’s formally surrender to the Allied Forces.
History of France’s Victory Day
Germany’s act of military surrender was signed in two occasions: one in Reims, France on May 7, 1945 and in Berlin, Germany on May 8, 1945.
The act of surrender was initiated by Adolf Hitler’s successor, Germany’s head of the Germany’s government, Karl Dönitz, after the former allegedly committed suicide on April 30, 1945 while the German armed forces are in the middle of fighting in the Battle of Berlin.
The leader of the Free French Force, Charles de Gaulle, announced the end of World War II on May 8, 1945 followed by the ringing of church bells across France. Celebrations took place afterwards especially in Buckingham Palace in London where the crowds are greeted by the then Elizabeth I, King George VI, and Winston Churchill, who was the then prime minister of the United Kingdom from October 26, 1951 –April 7, 1955.
France passed March 20, 1953 law number 53-225 to adopt May 8 as the official date of celebration of Victory Day. Victory Day’s official public holiday status was removed in 1975 but was reinstated on October 2, 1981 through the law number 81-893.
The difference in the celebration between France and Moscow (where the latter celebrates Victory Day on May 9 instead of May 8) is based on the fact that Russia is located East of Germany and it was already May 9 in Russia when Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces.
France’s Victory Day: Traditions, Customs and Activities
France celebrates Victory Day with public parade, speeches, and ceremonial luncheons. Educational institutions set aside this date to discuss the horrors and lessons brought by World War II. Apart from taking part in parades, some people also attend church services with sermons or topics dedicated to the fallen heroes of the Second World War.
During the holiday, people display national flag in front of their homes including private and public buildings. It is also during this time when people sing patriotic songs in the street. Local politicians also hold ceremonial speeches and conduct wreath-laying in war memorials across the country.
Victory Day is one of the most important public holidays in France. It is work-free.