What is “La Rentrée” in France? And what is all the fuss about?!
Do you live in France? Do you know anyone who lives in France? Well chances are that this week you have seen all the return to school photos and well wishings for la rentrée.
So what is la rentrée all about, and why all the fuss?
For me, as an English person, January was always the time of year that I made new resolutions and had a fresh start. In France it feels like this refresh takes place in September, as the children go back to school and the country starts up again after the long August break.
I like this.
To me it feels like the whole country is revolving around the rhythm and routine of the family. A value which is so culturally important to the French.
You may be thinking, well we do that too. When the children start their school year again, it's a fresh start for them, a new year, new uniform, new stationary… but in France it is something more. La rentrée is a whole atmosphere and celebration. SO much so that it even has it’s own unique name - there is no full equivalent for the phrase “la rentrée” in English.
You may be interested to learn that it was Pope Gregory IX who introduced the concept of a summer holiday in 1231. He decided to close universities for a month to limit absences caused by students who went to help their parents during the summer harvest. So it is based on a respect for the agricultural tradition which is still so important in France.
So at this time of year (the end of August/beginning of September) you are reminded about la rentrée every where you look. La rentrée consumes the chatter amongst friends of adults and children alike, and the internet is full of advice on how best to manage it!
And it is not just the schools and universities returning, and businesses operating on full throttle again. The political rentrée also takes place with the return of politicians to Paris from holiday, and party conferences taking place.
There is also a literary rentrée. Authors and publishers are busy from 1st September and it is at this time of the year that more new novels are published in France than any other time. Also, the broadcast media often change their jingles for la rentrée, and schedule changes are made.
With the literary rentrée in mind, and as this is my 4th rentrée living in France (although my first with the children returning/starting school), I have decided that my rentrée resolution (do the French make such things? I don’t know!) is going to be to read more fiction. I was always a bookworm pre children, but I just haven’t had the same time and energy whilst they were little and I was at home with them.
But this rentrée is a fresh start and a change for me too. Both children in full time school for the very first time means I can focus precious time on things just for me.
I’m starting with reading the book “When God was a Rabbit”, by Sarah Winman, on my new Kindle; and I’m also listening to The Handmaid's Tale” by Margaret Atwood, on Audible
I’ve even joined a book club!
Happy Rentrée everyone!