Remem-ber, Remem-ber the 8th of May

Today is one of four French national holidays during the month of May, including May Day (May 1), Ascension (May 9 this year), and Pentecost Monday (May 20 this year). May is, it seems, the most “holidayed” month of the year for the French. Given that it’s usually the most beautiful month of the year in Paris, that’s just fine with me!

If you’ve ever wondered why May 8 is a holiday here, read on

(Originally published May 8, 2012)

je parle américain

May is a month chock full of holidays here in France. Just last week, we celebrated May Day. Since it fell on a Tuesday, lots of French took Monday off as well so they could have a four-day weekend — that’s what the French call faire le pont (“to make the bridge”). This year, May is also the month that brings us such Christian holidays as Ascension on May 17 and Pentecost on May 27. While the latter is no longer a public holiday in France, the former is … but let’s not get into a discussion about laïcité, okay? Instead, I’m writing about today’s holiday:

le 8 mai

A blogger friend of mine noted in a post today that it was “Victory Day” … but no one could tell her exactly which victory it commemorated. Being the history nerd that I am, I passed along the needed…

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Remember, Remember the 8th of May

May is a month chock full of holidays here in France. Just last week, we celebrated May Day. Since it fell on a Tuesday, lots of French took Monday off as well so they could have a four-day weekend — that’s what the French call faire le pont (“to make the bridge”). This year, May is also the month that brings us such Christian holidays as Ascension on May 17 and Pentecost on May 27. While the latter is no longer a public holiday in France, the former is … but let’s not get into a discussion about laïcité, okay? Instead, I’m writing about today’s holiday:

le 8 mai

A blogger friend of mine noted in a post today that it was “Victory Day” … but no one could tell her exactly which victory it commemorated. Being the history nerd that I am, I passed along the needed information. (It also helped that my local Métro station is named for the holiday!) Given that, I figured I might as well write my own little blogpost on the holiday that I just celebrated by doing absolutely nothing special …

Victory in Europe Day” or “V-E Day” is the day that marks the end of World War II in Europe, when the Allies formally accepted Nazi Germany’s act of military surrender. Following the fall of Berlin and Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, control of Germany passed into the hands of Admiral Karl Dönitz, who established a short-lived new German government named after Flensburg, the town on the Danish border where he was holed up at Germany’s naval academy. Allied forces were advancing rapidly on what remained of the German army in northwestern Germany and, on May 4, Dönitz surrendered to British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery near Hamburg.

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Cold War on Line 7?

I live in La Courneuve, at one end of line 7 of the Paris Métro. I spend a lot of time riding on that line, looking at its long list of stations during my daily trips back and forth to Paris. Scanning that list recently, I noticed what seemed to be some strange homage to the Cold War: the end of World War II … the White House … and the Kremlin.

V-E Day in Paris, May 8, 1945

The official name of the La Courneuve station is La Courneuve—8 mai 1945. The date refers to V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day: the end of the Second World War in Europe, when Germany’s act of military surrender was officially ratified in Berlin. While we don’t celebrate May 8 in the United States, it’s celebrated widely in Europe as a public holiday. Nothing really noteworthy in having a station named in honor of the end of the war, right? Towards the other end of line 7, however, two more stations drew my attention: Maison Blanche and Le Kremlin-Bicêtre. That got me thinking. “Maison Blanche” means “White House” and “Kremlin” … well, “Kremlin” means “Kremlin.” (I’ll admit, I had no idea what “Bicêtre” meant.) “How interesting!” I thought. At one end of line 7 we’ve got the end of World War II and at the other end, we’ve got the White House and the Kremlin! Hmm …

Continue reading Cold War on Line 7?