La Rentrée – It’s that Time of Year Again

An image of a chalkboard celebrating La Rentrée

Just to be clear, this post really should have gone out last week. But if you will recall, last week was a very special occasion. Not only was it my 5th year anniversary of living in Paris, but it also marked a year since I officially launched Story of a City and started writing weekly content. So all in all, there was a lot to celebrate. But there was one more celebration happening last week, and this one was going on all over France. Last week marked the beginning of La Rentrée, and if you have no idea what that is, don’t worry. I didn’t either before I moved to France.

I first arrived in France in early September, and one of the first things I noticed was the word Rentrée everywhere I went. When I asked what it meant, I was informed that Rentrée translates to “re-entry”. But re-entry to what? That’s when it was explained to me that the French calendar begins in September, not January. To understand why, you have to understand the French approach to holidays. In short, it’s wonderful.

I moved to France with my North American mindset firmly in place when it came to work. It had never crossed my mind that a country as a whole could collectively take a month off every summer. And yet that’s exactly what France does. Every July and August there is a mass exodus from Paris as people head to the coast to relax and unwind. Shops and restaurants all over the city close down, and life in general moves a little more slowly. It was an odd phenomenon to witness my first summer in Paris, but it’s a convention that I’ve grown to love. I mean, what’s not to love about having a month off every summer?

Even better, when September arrives, Paris comes alive in a way that is wholly unique to this city. The streets are bustling and storefronts are no longer shuttered. Kids go back to school and adults go back to work. In the mornings the Metro is packed once more, and in the evenings everyone catches up over drinks. More importantly, people are refreshed, their batteries are recharged after relaxing for a month, and life settles back into its regular rhythms. All with a special energy in the air.

In most countries, the time to hit the reset button is New Year’s Eve, but in France, it’s La Rentrée. September isn’t just a month, it’s an event, complete with a celebratory atmosphere and an excitement for life to start up once more. It’s a distinctly French tradition and I love it. So Viva La Rentrée everyone! I hope this next year will be a great one for you.

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Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.