I love the fact that most shops and many restaurants are closed on Sundays in France. Having lived in the land of 24/7 most of my life, I really appreciate being forced to take a break from consumerism one day a week. However, as a temporary Parisienne, I apparently am out of sync with my fellow citizens.
Sunday has been a day of rest in France since the early 1900s, but according to a recent poll, two-thirds of the population is in favor of stores opening on Sundays (providing it is voluntary for employees to work). Still some see this open-Sundays-movement, like the proposed changes to French vacation and working hours, as an attack on the heart and soul of France, and the essence of what makes France, France.
While the government and the legal system have made it clear that they are not ready to budge or cave into the demands of an always-open world, several French businesses are openly bucking the system, most notable the home improvement chain, Bricorama. They are currently appealing the €100,000 per day fine that has been imposed, and many French families have become vocal advocates of this proposed change which they insist helps working parents, giving them more time to run errands on the weekends.
I am entirely in the other camp. As I’ve said, I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I love that our Sundays in Paris are not just a day of rest, but they are also a day to explore the city or to do something with friends…
…which leads me to another thing I love about France: dimanche midi, or Sunday lunch en famille.
Many French families still gather at their mother’s or grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoons for an old-style, four or five-course meal together. In the past, la maman ou la mamie might have done all the cooking, but these days the guests contribute their own culinary specialties. Which is not to say that they are all homemade, au contraire. Take a ride on the metro late Sunday morning, and you’ll be surprised by the number of travelers carting swanky to-go boxes filled with delicate desserts tied up with silky ribbons. Bottles of wine and bags swollen with cheese, charcuterie, pickled garlic and olives, warm, delicious smelling tartes, roasted chicken, and or course, fresh crusty baguettes, accompany the “déjeuner-ers”.
Our family has quite happily and easily adopted this French tradition, in great part because so much is closed on Sundays in France, and we aren’t distracted by commercial demands or tempted to go out and buy things. Instead, we actually have the time to sit down for a meal together and find out what is happening in each other’s lives.
Sunday lunch is a highlight of my week. My fingers are crossed that the French will choose déjeuner over faire du shopping, and realize the value of fermé le dimanche.
déjeuner-ers: déjeuner – to (eat) lunch; déjeuner-ers—franglish for people who lunch
dimanche midi: Sunday lunch
en famille: with family
faire du shopping: to go shopping
fermé le dimanche: closed on Sunday
la maman: mom
la mamie: granny