La Rentrée en France: A Time for New Beginnings

The beginning of September marks a unique annual event in France – la rentrée. It signifies that the long summer holidays have come to an end, and it’s time to return to work, to the office, to school and normal life. Many French people consider la rentrée a time of ‘new beginnings’, ushering in a renewed sense of resolve and purpose that has far more meaning than any January new year resolution.

Last week, we discussed la rentrée (literally translated as the return) in the context of the start of the new school year in France. Known specifically as la rentrée scolaire, it represents an annual event celebrated in many countries around the world including the US with Back-to-School activities. But the French take it a step farther and everybody gets involved regardless of age. It’s a time of optimism and renewal, new stock in the shops, new TV programmes, new books being released. There are new exhibitions and cultural programmes galore all over the country.

La rentrée littéraire refers to the fall period when many French books are published. This is when heavy-hitting favorite authors and first-time publishers alike tend to release their latest works. This year, over 550 books will be published in France in the next 3 months leading up to the race for French literary awards - including the prestigious Prix Goncourt, Prix Femina, Prix Renaudot, and more - with winners announced right before the holiday season.

Never wanting to be left out of the action, the government officials all return from summer holidays to kick off la rentrée politique representing a busy period when the various parties meet to set their upcoming political agendas. With just eight months before the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and other party officials are a dominant presence in the news, tackling tough issues such as the pandemic, domestic crime and international crises.

And don’t forget about the media - they get their own la rentrée médiatique as well. This is the time when the TV and radio stations refresh their schedules, and the usual presenters return to the evening news shows after their vacations. The general public at large is pulled into the fall renewal with a flurry of advice from bloggers and lifestyle coaches encouraging the adoption of new resolutions as cited in this recent blog. La rentrée is an exciting and energizing time to be in France. During this period, one cannot help but be reminded of France’s commitment to information and education, as well as the widespread importance of the country’s literary, cultural and intellectual traditions.

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