May 8 – Fête de la Victoire in St. Pierre & Miquelon

Posted on May 8, 2016

You may not need to know French to realize that this holiday is about “Victory” – specifically, World War II Victory in France and other nations.

But do those “other nations” include St. Pierre and Miquelon? How come I've never heard of them?

Actually, St. Pierre and Miquelon are the two inhabited islands in an archipelago of eight islands. The islands are located in the North Atlantic, a bit southwest of Newfoundland, and they are not an independent nation but rather a self-governing territory belonging to France.

There are only about six thousand people living on the two islands, combined. So that probably explains why I've never heard of them—the two islands, counted together, aren't much bigger population-wise than my high school!

So, place-that-I-just-learned-existed, wow me. What's so special about St. Pierre and Miquelon?

  • The houses and buildings are colorful! 

Like, really colorful!

I read that, back in the day when the islands were richer because of the cod-fishing industry, the buildings were dim shades of brown and gray. It's only since the 1960s that people began using bright colors.

  • The flag is complicated and...well, frankly, busy!

    The flags of the regions of Basque, Breton, and Normandy march down the hoist (the side of the flag nearest the pole), because many of the inhabitants of the island came from those French locales. The blue sea and yellow ship that fill the rest of the flag are based on St. Pierre and Miquelon's coat of arms. The ship is supposed to be the Grande Hermine, the ship that brought Jacques Cartier to the islands in 1536.

  • This collectivity of islands is the last bit of New France that is still controlled by France. At one time France controlled a wide swath of what is now Canada and the United States:
Now it's down to this:

  • Even though St. Pierre and Miquelon is about 2,650 miles away from France – and much, much closer to Newfoundland, Canada – the inhabitants have regular old European Union passports, they use the euro for money, they speak French that is close to that spoken in Paris (rather than French Canadian), and the students tend to go to university in far-away France rather than nearby Canada.

Also on this date:

Mother's Day in the U.S.

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