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Celebrating Mother’s Day In France Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Culture, History

La fête des mères (Mother’s Day) has already passed aux États-Unis (in the United States), but it is just around the corner en France. The different dates can be confusing, but the most important thing is not forgetting les mères!

While modern Mother’s Day is generally thought to have originated aux États-Unis, le village d’Artas claims to be le berceau de la fête des mères (the birthplace of Mother’s Day). Le village held a ceremony in 1906 to honor les mères de familles nombreuses (mothers of big families), giving a prize of « Haut mérite maternel » (High maternal merit) to two mothers of nine children.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century there were many celebrations that aimed to pay tribute to les mères. One such celebration was la journée des mères, a ceremony held à Lyon in 1918 for all les mères who lost someone in their family during la Première Guerre mondiale (the First World War).

La journée des mères and the other early Mother’s Day celebrations en France were a means of promoting la politique nataliste (the high birth rate policy) of the time in an attempt to repopulate the country after having lost so many citizens on les champs de bataille (the battlefield).

Après la Seconde Guerre mondiale (the Second World War), la fête had it’s date fixed to the last Sunday of May (unless that Sunday is la Pentecôte, then it is the first Sunday of June) and became a national holiday with la loi du 24 mai 1950 (the 1950 law of May 24):

la République française rend officiellement hommage chaque année aux mères françaises au cours d’une journée consacrée à la célébration de la « Fête des mères ».
The French Republic officially pays tribute to French mothers annually on a day dedicated to the celebration of “Mother’s Day”.

Regardless of how it started, everyone takes a moment to remember les mères during la fête. Similar to les États-Unis, en France the modern fête des mères involves inviting la mère to a restaurant and giving gifts, especially les fleurs (flowers).

Even if you are not en France or in many of the other pays francophones (French speaking countries) that will be celebrating la fête des mères this weekend, take time to practice your French and say:

Bonne fête des mères !
Happy Mother’s Day!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.