French mayor wants to abolish Christian holidays


A French mayor wants to replace national Christian holidays for secular ones. But that idea was not very well-conceived.

A priest leads the Easter Sunday Holy Mass outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo EPA, Mohammed Badra

Of the eleven public holidays in France, six are linked to religion. However, according to the Grenoble mayor Éric Piolle, these holidays should be removed. He wants to replace these with other commemorative days, celebrating "our common attachment to the Republic."

His proposal comes after the Interior Ministry asked questions about many school absentees during the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr, which is not an official holiday in France. The controversy caused Piolle to argue for the replacement of religious holidays for secular ones. For example, he suggests creating commemorative days for the revolutions, the abolition of slavery, and LGBT people.

Piolle's proposal was not well-received by Christians and conservatives in the country. Several media outlets reacted negatively to the news. In an op-ed for the liberal Causeur magazine, Dominique Labarriere accuses Piolle of narrow-mindedness. According to him, people wanted to drive out any Christian reference during the French Revolution and break radically with this "patrimonial heritage." "For him (Piolli, ed.), France was born in 1792 with the Republic. Before, if we believe him, nothing but the horror and darkness of the tyranny of the monarchy. So, new times, new calendar."

In response to the criticism, Piolle says that he does not want to forbid Christian holidays. He wants to "leave public holidays open to the choice of each person's religious convictions." He does not say what that means for schools.