In French, the word for Weekend is “fin de semaine” but the expression is rarely used as the anglicism is preferred. A weekend is a period of free time that concerns tourism because it is conducive to short trips.

A fairly recent establishment

Weekends were established progressively. In 1906, Sundays were definitively declared a non-working day for all employees (Beck, 1997), after several attempts and although, in the Catholic religion, this day must be dedicated to the Lord. However, by virtue of derogations, domestic workers and agricultural workers were excluded. And it was not until 1936 that Saturdays were also added, except for retailers who in general closed on Sundays and Mondays. In particular, the school year continued to impose classes on Saturday morning until 1969, thus compelling parents to rule out a short trip elsewhere, unless justified.

Of course, as Norbert Élias and Eric Dunning (1994) explained, time not worked is not in fact leisure time. It is free time that can also be devoted to tasks that could not be performed the rest of the week, such as laundry, ironing, etc. Moreover, it is also time dedicated to the children’s education, helping with homework, or driving them to sports or cultural activities, at least for the younger ones. It should be noted, however, that the non-working days are Thursdays and Fridays in the Muslim world, and Fridays and Saturdays for people of Jewish faith.

A time conducive to relaxation

However, weekends offer an opportunity to escape. For those who own a so-called second home, it is a time for breathing fresh air and be with the family. However, a second home requires maintenance and upkeep. Those who do not have one can always count on invitations from those who do. A second home is also a social stage where success is showcased.

Those who have a comfortable income can also have recourse to commercial operators who have a wide range of offers: from houses to bed and breakfast accommodations, including short-term rentals, tourist residences, and even short trips and especially to European capitals. Long weekends, using appropriately placed public holidays or “RTT” time off, are particularly sought in the latter case. Low-cost airlines facilitate the experience by offering flights at very low prices, thanks to subsidies and an effective organisation. Supplements, however, can offer surprises.

Towards a rethinking?

On the one hand, the recent trend is in favour of re-introducing work on Sundays, on a voluntary basis and in return for compensation. Shops are also open in the evenings and on weekends in international tourist areas, under the law of 6 August 2015. On the other hand, the holiday period at the weekend tends to extend and to include Friday, in whole or in part. These contrasting trends reflect, in part, the conundrum faced by employers.

Will concerns over global warming lead to spending more weekends nearby in order to cut down on travels, and therefore on the production of GHGs?

Philippe VIOLIER