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The French are a festive bunch with many cities hosting music, dance, theatre, cinema or art events each year.


Rural villages hold fairs and fêtes which celebrate everything from local saints to agricultural progress.


Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence is the venue for a colourful gypsy festival in late May honouring Sarah, patron saint of the gypsies. Enthusiastic singing and dancing characterise this extravaganza.


Prominent national days off are May Day (1 May), when people trade gifts of muguet (lily of the valley) for good luck; and Bastille Day (14 July), which is celebrated by throwing firecrackers at friends.


Regional events include the primping and preening prêt à porter fashion show in Paris (early February); the glittering and often canned Cannes Film Festival (mid-May); the International Music Festival in Strasbourg (first three weeks of June); the mainstream and fringe theatre of the Festival d'Avignon (mid-July to mid-August) and the Jazz Festival in Nancy (9-24 October).