Bon dimanche

Dimanche après-midi sur l’île de la Grande Jatte – Georges Seurat

Sundays are sacrosanct in France. Despite the fact that an ever-diminishing number of people attend church, the tradition of Sunday as a day of rest is still going strong.

Shops are closed, although some supermarkets and food shops are open on Sunday mornings until noon. Open-air markets do a booming trade until midday, after which everybody goes for lunch and all business activity ceases. Everyone wishes each other “Bon dimanche!”

Un dimanche – Paul Signac

In France, Sundays are for leisure pursuits and family. Aside from essential services like transport, police and hospitals, nobody works.

Sunday lunch can be an all-afternoon affair. It often ends in a long, post-prandial walk to aid digestion. Then it’s a light supper and early to bed in anticipation of the new week. Monday, not Sunday, is considered the first day of the week.

La promenade du dimanche – Carl Spitzweg

I love Sundays because they are different from the rest of the week. My North American, consumer self used to rail against the French refusal to authorize Sunday openings of stores (other than in the pre-Christmas period, when exceptions are allowed). But I’ve finally come around to the French way of thinking. The fact that the tradition is kept up means we get a true day of rest. Even if you spend it working around the house, gardening or going for a long hike, it is a needed break from the regular routine.

Un dimanche campagnard – Gabriel Dauchot

This morning the sun is shining, a small plane is droning somewhere overhead and my to-do list is on hold. I will take the time to catch up on my reading, sit outside and have a coffee while the birds chirp. I will enjoy what we call the ‘pause dominical’, the Sunday break.

What does Sunday mean to you?


  1. phildange · April 14, 2019

    Freedom . Nothing is needed, nothing is expected, that’s how I love life, rid of all the clutter that prevents us from being pure divinities .

    Beware little Canuck : say either “le repos dominical” or “la pause dominicalE”, although the latter is quite unusual . So many years here and still …

    • MELewis · April 14, 2019

      Ah freedom, I do struggle with this. It is such an illusion. Free from, free to? Responsibility still weighs in there somehow…but the idea of it is so seductive! (You see, I have been here long enough to still make mistakes but to feel at home as tortured soul…🤫) Thanks for the correction – I will leave it unchanged as a mark of humility!

      • phildange · April 14, 2019

        Keep on rolling Mel . Tortured souls are my pals .

        “Tip from heaven : free can’t be ‘from’ nor ‘to’ “. Hi hi hi .😇

  2. francetaste · April 14, 2019

    Recently, even here in deepest France the supermarkets have begun opening on Sunday mornings until 1 p.m. Not recommended. Total zoo. But if you work all week and get off around 6, it’s hard to squeeze in a supermarket run before they close at 7 or 8 (especially because checkout lines can be very long). And if you also have obligations on Saturday, then you’re stuck.
    Before that, the range of businesses open was revealing: bakeries (fresh bread, always); florists (to take a fresh bouquet when you go to grandmother’s for Sunday dinner); garden centers and hardware stores, because Sunday afternoon is for puttering in the house and/or garden.

    • MELewis · April 14, 2019

      It’s funny, now that I’m no longer on the weekly treadmill (without school runs and working from home most days), I forget how hard it was to squeeze in those shopping runs. And in contrast to Switzerland, where I still spend some time, France seems like a piece of cake. The shops on the Swiss side close most days at 6 and even 5pm on Saturdays. I remember when I worked full-time there sometimes having to pick up dinner from a selection of ready-meals in the train station convenience store…😫 I think we are hitting a good happy medium in France at the moment.

  3. midihideaways · April 14, 2019

    Hurrah for France for not (yet) giving in to the open-all-hours-and-days crowd!! I’m not much in favour of Sunday shopping across the board, I think it’s lovely that there is one day a week where families can spend time together and not spend the day at the mall! 🙂

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      Thankfully, it seems there is little chance of full Sunday shopping becoming a regular thing in France. Vive le dimanche!

  4. jardinsandgardens · April 14, 2019

    I love the day of rest in France. I am however one of the few that works! Fortunately for me, guiding means that I get to work in some of the most beautiful places in Normandy, and my clients, on holiday, are generally happy, good natured and the ambience is to have fun.
    I do envy the chance to relax in the garden and listen to birdsong, and it’s always lovely to come home and sit in the hammock, weather permitting, and enjoy the last moments of the afternoon.

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      It must be strange to work while everyone else is relaxing, but at the same time, you enjoy a job that is a little bit like being on holiday. How lovely to be able to do something you truly enjoy, hopefully with some down time during ‘regular’ office hours. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Karen Hemingway · April 14, 2019

    I wish we could turn back time here in Canada to when everything was not open all hours everyday of the week. It actually takes away freedom in my opinion. The people who work in the stores, fast food and coffee shops have no time to devote to other pleasures. They often only know their schedules one or maybe two weeks in advance and are expected to work the long hours of whatever business employs them. As for families, it is very difficult to keep away from the “open 24hours” mentality and that includes Sunday. I think you have the right idea with early closing times and Sunday rests! I hope it lasts. Enjoy!

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      How interesting, Karen! I always used to be so envious when I’d come back to Toronto for a visit and be able to go shopping any time…but I can see how it might get to be too much. It does seems especially hard for so many people who are forced to keep working in retail even after ‘retirement’ to make ends meet. (And with Ford in power, that’s not likely to change any time soon…😢) As for France, I would be very surprised to see shops opening all hours. Cheers! x

  6. Becky Ross Michael · April 14, 2019

    As a child and as a working adult, Sunday afternoon into evening was often a bit of a downer for me, since I thought about all the things that I didn’t finish over the weekend (homework, cleaning, laundry, etc.) The first time I lived in Texas, when my kids were still young, the “Blue Laws” prohibited sale of clothing on Sundays, which certainly cut into weekend time available for some needed shopping. I have a horrible Sunday memory of driving from one grocery to another just looking for a store that would be willing to sell me a plain white T-shirt needed for my daughter’s field trip the next day! In retirement, all days should feel the same, I suppose. However, there’s sometimes a lingering aura on Sundays of not having accomplished quite enough, somehow…

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      I can totally relate! I get the Sunday blues a lot as my ‘to-do’ list is never done. But I’m working on lightening up. Life is too short! Thanks for sharing the memories, Becky. 😊

  7. Heide · April 14, 2019

    Your description alone of Sundays in France makes me want to return. It’s my favorite day there, because from tiny towns to Paris there is a palpably different vibe. As Francetaste says, some stores are now opening for a few hours on Sunday mornings, but the afternoons and evenings are still sacrosanct for laying about on the pelouse, strolling, chatting … all of those little moments that we rush past during the week. Bon dimanche !

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      Merci! Sundays do indeed have a different vibe, and one that Americans sadly get so rarely on holidays like the 4th of July. I get the work ethic, and I do struggle with laws that limit options, but I also think people need down time and if you don’t make a general rule for a day of rest then it simply will not happen. It is the little things, as you say… 😍

  8. Dale · April 14, 2019

    I remember when in Quebec, most stores were closed on Sundays and you could NEVER buy booze if they were… I think we could all use a break to force us to stop with the go-go-go…
    Then again, I would probably curse if I could not buy my bottle of wine for my supper (if I had forgotten the day before…) Like you, I probably would learn to adapt.

    • MELewis · April 15, 2019

      I remember those days too, in Ontario (in fact, not sure if the liquor stores are open on Sundays?) But forget the wine? Not on your life! 😜

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