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WWII Victory Day in France

WWII Victory Day (la fête de la victoire, le jour de la libération) is a holiday to celebrate the end of World War II and the French people's freedom. It is the anniversary of when Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945.

European Union Flags
Flags of the European nations are displayed at some ceremonies on WWII Victory Day.
Flags of the European nations are displayed at some ceremonies on WWII Victory Day.

What Do People Do?

Schools, colleges and universities spend the period before May 8 focusing on the history of the Nazi oppression and World War II. Lessons related to this topic ensure that all generations know what happened during the war and why it is important to preserve everyone's rights in modern society.

Many people attend parades and church services on May 8 each year to celebrate the end of World War II and the freedom of France from Nazi oppression. They also sing patriotic songs and display the French national flag on their homes and public buildings. The mood on WWII Victory Day is generally joyous but people may also make time to remember family members or others who died during World War II. In the past, World War II veterans played an important role in the celebrations but many of them are now older and some are unable to perform a public role.

Public Life

WWII Victory Day is a public holiday in France so post offices, banks, and many businesses are closed. Restaurants and cafes outside tourist areas may also be closed. However, bakeries and some stores in Paris, as well as at airports and railway stations and along major highways, are open.

Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. Roads may be closed for parades. This is particularly likely in the center of towns, cities, and near war memorials.


Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, announced the official end of World War II to the French people on May 8, 1945. Church bells rang to communicate and celebrate this message. It marked the end of a six-year war and the Nazi oppression in France, which resulted in millions of deaths.

May 8 and 9, 1945, were joyous days but it took some time for WWII Victory Day to become established as a day of celebration and a public holiday. Between 1945 and 1953, the end of World War II was marked during the feast of St. Joan of Arc on May 16 and the Armistice Day observances on November 11. The following events occurred:

  • On May 7, 1946, law number 46-934 was adopted. This law specified that the WWII victory would be celebrated on the second Sunday of May.
  • On March 20, 1953, law number 53-225 was adopted and May 8 officially became a holiday to mark the end of World War II. However, May Day is always in May. Ascension Day and Pentecost Monday are often in May. This meant that there were a lot of public holidays in May.
  • On April 11, 1959, law number 59-533 returned WWII Victory Day to the second Sunday of May. Many veterans protested against this decision and continued to commemorate WWII Victory Day on May 8.
  • On April 1, 1965, the government announced that May 8, 1965, would be a special holiday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of World War II. This public holiday was only observed in 1965.
  • On January 17, 1968, the government announced that World War II victory celebrations would move to May 8, but would be in the late afternoon to minimize disruption to the working day.
  • In 1975 the French President decided that there would be no official or national commemoration of the end of World War II. Many veterans protested against this decision and continued to commemorate WWII Victory Day locally on May 8.
  • On October 2, 1981, law number 81-893 amended the French Labor Code and WWII Victory Day became a public holiday. After much public debate, it also became an official national holiday in 1982.

This day is marked on the island of Martinique, in the Caribbean, as the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Pelée on May 8, 1902. More than 30,000 people died from the eruption.


The French national flag, or tricolor, is an important symbol of WWII Victory Day. It is one-and-a-half times as wide as it is tall and consists of three vertical bands colored blue, white and red. The bands are all the same width. The same colors are displayed in bunting and banners of many shapes on WWII Victory Day.

Flags of all European nations and the European flag are also displayed at some ceremonies. These emphasize the lasting peace and unity in Europe since the end of World War II.

WWII Victory Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday Type
SatMay 82010WWII Victory DayNational holiday
SunMay 82011WWII Victory DayNational holiday
TueMay 82012WWII Victory DayNational holiday
WedMay 82013WWII Victory DayNational holiday
ThuMay 82014WWII Victory DayNational holiday
FriMay 82015WWII Victory DayNational holiday
SunMay 82016WWII Victory DayNational holiday
MonMay 82017WWII Victory DayNational holiday
TueMay 82018WWII Victory DayNational holiday
WedMay 82019WWII Victory DayNational holiday
FriMay 82020WWII Victory DayNational holiday

Quick Facts

WWII Victory Day marks the anniversary of the official end of World War II and is a public holiday in France.

WWII Victory Day 2018

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

WWII Victory Day 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Name in other languages

Fête de la Victoire 1945French
WWII Victory DayEnglish
Tag des Sieges 1945German

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in May 2018 in France

United Nation Holiday on May 8, 2018

World Holiday on May 8, 2018

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