Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington

What is “le jour de la libération”?

WWII Victory Day (la fête de la victoire, le jour de la libération) is a holiday to celebrate the end of World War II and the French people’s freedom. It is the anniversary of when Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945.

Today, WWII Victory Day is a public holiday in France. Post offices, banks, schools and many businesses are closed, and many people attend parades and church services to celebrate the end of World War II and the freedom of France from Nazi oppression. They also sing patriotic songs and display the French national flag at home and on public buildings. The mood on WWII Victory Day is generally joyous, although many people make time to remember family members or others who died during World War II. In the past, World War II veterans played an important role in the celebrations, but many of them are now older and some are unable to perform a public role.

Back on May 8, 1945 Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, announced the official end of World War II. Church bells rang to communicate and celebrate this message. It marked the end of a six-year war and the Nazi oppression in France, which resulted in millions of deaths.

May 8 and 9, 1945, were joyous days but it took some time for WWII Victory Day to become established as a day of celebration and a public holiday.

When did the Victory Day public holiday start?

It wasn’t until April 1, 1965, the government announced that May 8, 1965, would be a special holiday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of World War II. This public holiday was only observed once, in 1965 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of WWII.

In 1975 the French President decided that there should be no official or national commemoration of the end of World War II. Many veterans protested against this decision and continued to commemorate WWII Victory Day locally on May 8.

On October 2, 1981, WWII Victory Day became a public holiday. After much public debate, it also became an official national holiday in 1982.

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