What exactly is La Rentrée? Why does it hold such significance that every television channel and radio station in France talks of nothing else over the period of La Rentrée?
La Rentrée is simply the end of the long summer break, when the children return to school to start a new academic year. Schools across the country start more or less on the same day, so you can image the frenzy of every household with school age children organising themselves for this important new beginning. Everyone is manically buying new clothes, shoes, equipment – the necessary paraphernalia that school kids need today. As very few French schools have uniforms, fashion and trends play a large role in the choice of the ‘right’ pair of jeans or sneakers. This is not only time consuming and costly but also very stressful in the packed shops and streets. Then, of course, there is the choice of the school bag. This decision can take on astronomic proportions and this one topic receives perhaps the most TV coverage. The bag shouldn’t be too large, as it may then get too heavy. But it can’t be too small as French schools dish out A LOT of homework, so the children have to carry books back and forth from school to home every day.
It is not all about school though as September is the time of the rentrée politique (political return), well-rested and tanned politicians also return to Paris and parliament resumes. The rentrée du cinéma traditionally signals the end of the summer blockbuster season and a return of more serious art-house fare to cinemas. Not to be outdone, the publishing industry puts out huge numbers of new novels during the rentrée littéraire, which lasts into November.
The French use this period of La Rentrée to wipe the slate clean and have a new start to the year. Resolutions are made, just as they are in January. La Rentrée gives you a second chance at reaching your goals for the year.
Over all, it has a very healthy positive effect on the population - not to mention that September has similar gym inscriptions numbers to January. Now that can’t be bad!
There is one other thing that happens in every household though at this time, but no one really talks about it, it just seems to go on behind the scenes. What is it? Well, wardrobes and interiors are changed. Yes, summer clothes are put away and replaced by the ‘mi-saison’ and winter clothes. Now, to what extent this occurs depends of course on your means, the size of your home and where exactly you live. In some instances, it could be as simple as swopping drawers or exchanging boxes under the bed with whatever you have been wearing during the summer. For others, we are talking of separate wardrobes in the basement being exchanged with those in the home – a big job. Linen shirts are exchanged for cashmere pullovers, shorts for jeans and sandals for flats. Some households, go as far as to change their interiors - warming up the atmosphere by draping blankets over the sofa, changing the scents of the candles and in some instances changing cushions, bibelots, coffee table books and more….
Look out for ‘vide grenier’ (garage sales) at this time of year; you may pick up some great second hand gear.
As the madness of Le Rentrée subsides, the French sit down and reflect on how they would like the remaining months of the year to play out.
I have prepared a small collage of what that might look like.
Very well travelled, Tricia has spent many years in the Tourism Industry and in France, and is perfectly placed to guide you on your own French journey into lifestyle, fashion and more...Stay tuned!