My trip to France this summer was the first time I’ve been in Paris during the notorious “fermeture” of the August vacances, when the city shuts down for a month-long holiday.
[Photograph from http://cedricm.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_archive.html]
It was amazing to see how thoroughly this pervades the city: everyone from the man who repairs umbrellas in the Marais to French blogs go on vacation. It also makes “la rentrée,” the beginning of the school year and reopening of businesses in September, a much bigger deal than it is in the (decentralized) United States. See, even Astérix is getting back to the grindstone!
But I was tickled to read in a girls’ magazine from the 19th century that this phenomenon is nothing new. Here is the almanac’s entry for the month of August:
The month of August is a time of rest for children; those who have taken part in the prize-giving have permission to enjoy themselves all the time during vacation; they play all the games possible with their little comrades.
Le mois d’Août est pour les enfants un temps de repos; ceux qui ont eu part à la distribution des prix ont la permission de se divertir pendant tout le temps des vacances; il jouent à tous les jeux possibles avec leurs petits camarades.
La Poupée: Almanach des Petites Filles (1869, p. 12)