French Language Blog

Anniversaries Posted by on May 11, 2021 in History, Holidays, Language, Politics

For many French learners, the word anniversaire is perhaps most with associated with the expression Joyeux anniversaire but it can also refer to un anniversaire de mariage, or like in this past week, l’anniversaire d’une mort1the anniversary of a death, or l’anniversaire de la fin d’une guerre2the anniversary of the end of a war. So this week, let’s explore anniversaries.

Photo of the Arc de Triomphe [CC0] by Antonio Conte from Pexels

200 years after the death of Napoléon

Le 5 mai3May 5th, President Emmanuel Macron s’est rendu à4went to (lit. delivered himself to) l’Hôtel des Invalides, site of Napoléon’s tomb, to commemorate the life of l’Empereur on the 200th anniversaire de sa mort5anniversary of his death, an event not without controversy.

While Napoléon brought many improvements to France and the French people including l’éducation nationale and le Code civil, he also put an end to France’s first Republic, reinstituted slavery, and ravaged much of Europe in his quest to build an empire.  As a result, Macron – who as Bridgette reminded us in this great post on French politics is the youngest leader of France since Napoléon! – is (also) the first French president to mark the occasion.

As the Elysées6The Elysées Palace is the official residence of the French President. As here, the name can also refer to the administration of the President/the president’s office. said though « commémorer n’est pas célébrer »7commemorating is not celebrating and there is much we can learn from Napoléon’s history.

This video from FranceInfo highlights a variety of opinions about Napoleon from some of the countries outside of France where he left his mark. If you’d like to learn more, this site from the French National Ministry of Education has many great resources. Or if you’d like to see the day’s events, you can visit this site for a video, photos, and transcript of President Macron’s speech.

La France et l’esclavage

Before he brought it back, France was actually one of the first countries to abolish slavery. Like many countries at the time, French colonial trade relied on l’esclavage8slavery. In 1791 though, the leaders of the new Republic were among the first to officially abolish slavery. Following 1789’s Déclaration des droit de l’homme et du citoyen, they declared that “tout homme est libre en France, et que, quelle que soit sa couleur, il y jouit de tous les droits de citoyen9every man is free in France, and, regardless of his color, he benefits from all the rights of citizenship. Just over 10 years later (in 1802) Napoleon would undue the abolish and bring slavery back to French colonies.

Le 8 mai

Saturday was one of the the many May holidays in France and President Macron participated in another commemoration. Over the weekend he made his way to the Arc de Triomphe10Another legacy of Napoléon’s to mark the 76th anniversary of the end of la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. Like last year, the day’s traditional parades and celebrations were muted due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis, but you can learn more about the day and “follow” the events here.

An update

Last year in a post about interesting oddities of French architecture I told you about Paris’s façades factices. I recently came across this fun little video from the travel vlog The Tim Traveller that highlights a number of these “bâtiments” across the city. If you enjoy this video, I encourage you to check out Tim’s YouTube channel. He’s British and his videos are in English, but he’s got lots of great quick visits to more interesting and odd places in Paris, around France, and more.

Faire le Pont! – May Holidays in France

French Building Vocabulary

  • 1
    the anniversary of a death
  • 2
    the anniversary of the end of a war
  • 3
    May 5th
  • 4
    went to (lit. delivered himself to)
  • 5
    anniversary of his death
  • 6
    The Elysées Palace is the official residence of the French President. As here, the name can also refer to the administration of the President/the president’s office.
  • 7
    commemorating is not celebrating
  • 8
  • 9
    every man is free in France, and, regardless of his color, he benefits from all the rights of citizenship
  • 10
    Another legacy of Napoléon’s
Keep learning French with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


  1. Berenice:

    Thank you for this article! It is very instructive. Bérénice from French Tutoring Fun

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Berenice Merci, Bérénice! I’m glad you enjoyed it.