May is a great time of the year to be in France. The weather is getting better, flowers are in bloom, and hordes of summer tourists haven't yet made their presence known. May is especially sweet if you work in France, as this one month is filled with more national holidays than Americans see in an entire quarter. But it's not just a few days off here and there; the French take this rapid succession of Labor Day, Victory in Europe Day, and Ascension to the next level by practically making a month-long vacation out of it. How do they manage this incredible feat? By using a special tactic they like to call "Les ponts de mai." The May Bridges.
It works like this: let's say Labor Day (May 1st for most of the world, why do Americans celebrate this in September?) falls on a Thursday. You automatically get Thursday off from work, but you want more, so you take Friday off too. This creates a "pont," or bridge, to the weekend. Do this three times during the month and you're hardly at the office at all! The tourism industry in France goes crazy offering all kinds of "pont" vacation deals, which the French take full advantage of by running off the to the south, the north, to foreign countries, or to anywhere that's not home. And you thought they only vacationed in August.
I guess Americans sort of do this too. If the Fourth of July is on a Thursday, for example, how many people are in the office on Friday? Or the Friday after Thanksgiving? It's just that we don't have a catchy, clever name for the phenomenon. "Four-day weekend" or "long weekend" don't exactly have the same ring to them as "Les ponts de mai." We also don't have a single month with three such glorious opportunities for building May bridges. The Christmas/New Year's week comes close, but that doesn't really count seeing as how much of the world's population has that deal going on. As I struggle to make it to Memorial Day - the first federal holiday since mid-February - I wish all my French and expat friends in France a Happy May. Send me a "wish you were here" postcard?