The Meaning of “La Rentrée”

by olivia hoffman
Photo by © Teddy Verneuil @lezbroz

In France, the month of September is like the start of a brand-new year. For children, it truly is the start of a new school year, however, adults share in many of the emotions, challenges, and joys in the arrival of the new season: la rentrée (the return).


Anyone familiar with French culture knows that les français value their vacay. With 4 to 6 weeks of government-directed paid vacation per year, taking time off from the normal day-to-day routine is a serious matter. Over time, much of the French population has adopted the practice of taking most of those weeks off in the month of August. Subsequently, you will find that many businesses and stores close for at least a portion of the month – because they, too, are on holiday.

Photo by © Anthony Lanneretonne

Residents in France from big cities to small towns flock to their country houses, to their children’s or parents’ homes, or to another warmer country in search of a moment of rest and relaxation – an opportunity to recharge. They say “au revoir” to the daily grind and “bonjour” to the sunshine.

This tradition has developed into somewhat of a necessity for French people. And the more time we spend in France, the more we believe them – and agree.

Come the first week of September, there is a new energy in the air. People smile more on the streets. The monsieur behind the counter at your regular boulangerie is happy to see you again. Friends are eager to make plans for a drink to recount their summer stories. Your favorite local boutique had a small renovation, giving it a gorgeous facelift. There is so much enjoyment to be had with the return of the familiar after a month spent in hibernation from habit.

Of course, it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Returning to an inbox full of emails and a long to-do list of tasks set aside for the past few weeks is a bit daunting. However, the extra dose of vitamin D seems to help bring a little more Zen and clarity to undertaking the responsibilities that were put on hold. La rentrée becomes an opportunity to reevaluate how we approach each day with a little more freshness and gratitude.

Now, while you may not be returning from a month of holiday like the French, you can still incorporate the spirit of la rentrée into your day-to-day as summer winds down and we enter the colorful new season ahead. Perhaps you refresh your skincare routine to wake up with a little more energy on your face. Maybe you donate a few items of clothing you haven’t worn in a while to make space for something new. You could even reach out to friends you haven’t seen in some time to catch up on what has been happening lately.

The point of la rentrée is to look at the “mundane” routine of normal life with renewed energy. Whatever that means for you is correct if it puts an extra pep in your step and gets you excited to tackle the day.

If you want to start planning a French vacation in order to have a real rentrée for next September, check out our custom-made MFCH itineraries to multiple French vacation destinations! You can also visit our travel page to find regional guides and hotel recommendations all around France.

À la rentrée!

Read next: La Marinière: an Iconic & Historic French Fashion Staple

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