Bonne fête ! Happy Name Day!


Did you know that in France, every day of the year has one or more saint’s name(s) assigned to it?

The custom originated with the Christian calendar of saints. In the past, a child would be named (either first name or middle name) after the name of the catholic saint of the day when they were born.  Every day of the calendar has a saint’s name or more assigned to it.

Today, it is still traditional to mark the day by giving a small present or to just say « Bonne fête! ». My saint/name day is on the 11th of May and living in Australia today where this is not a custom, I must say I do miss this little custom and still love receiving presents from France on that occasion and love people remembering it and sending me messages! Any excuse for presents is a good excuse I say!

So let’s go back to our calendar! For example, on the 25th of April, we celebrate the Marcs (La Saint-Marc). If referring to the saint’s day, you use the feminine and a hyphen as opposed to referring to the saint himself (le saint Marc or Saint Marc).
The French are reminded of the saint that is celebrated the following day at the end of the evening news (Le journal), after the weather forecast. Several expressions can be used, such as: « Demain, nous souhaiterons la bonne fête à tous les Maxime ! or Demain, nous fêterons les Maxime, or Demain, nous serons la Saint-Maxime ».

Note however that if you hear someone telling you « Ça va être ta fête! », they might actually be threatening you!!! (see vocabulary section below).

Every year, La Poste prints their own calendar named L’Almanach du facteur* (= the postman’s calendar) or Almanach des Postes (since 1810).
It is a French tradition for the postman to come to your door at the end of the year to sell a copy of next year’s calendar: there are various styles and versions to choose from and you give whatever you want (it is an opportunity to say thank you for the postman’s services and possibly improve them if generous!) and is part of « les étrennes » (New Year’s gift; Christmas box given to private and public workers such as rubbish collectors, firefighters and postmen/postwomen) .
As an average, the postmen/postwomen get €10 per calendar and can sell up to 600 copies. Between 15 and 18 million calendars are sold every year!

Want to see what day is your name day? Click on the links below:

https://www.behindthename.com/namedays/country/france

 

Vocabulary

Un almanach (pronounced [almana]) : « Calendrier accompagné d’observations astronomiques, de prévisions météorologiques, de conseils pratiques relatifs aux travaux à faire selon la saison » (Le nouveau Petit Robert, 2010) = an almanac
Une éphéméride : « Ouvrage indiquant pour l’année à venir les évènements astronomiques ou météorologiques sujets à calcul et à prévisions ; Calendrier dont on détache chaque jour une feuille » (Le nouveau Petit Robert, 2010) = ephemeris ; tear-off calendar.
*Un facteur / Une factrice = A postman / A postwoman
P&T = Postes et Télégraphes

Expressions

Bonne fête ! Happy name day!
Ça va être ta fête! You’ve got it coming to you!
Attendre jusqu’à la saint-glinglin To wait forever
C’est une sainte nitouche She looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth!
La Saint-Sylvestre New Year’s Eve

 

 

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