On May 8th, we celebrate the end of World War II and its fighters. That day was specifically chosen by Staline who absolutely wanted the Nazi Germany to sign the surrender at the Red Army in Berlin, whereas it had just been signed on May 7th 1945 in Reims. So the new signature took place on May 8th 1945 at Karlshorst, a Berlin suburb, to put an end to the battles and celebrate the victory of the allied (France, United States, Great Britain, USSR, etc.). The day became a public holiday in March 1953, but in 1959 President Charles de Gaulle decided to cancel it in order to have better relationship with Germany. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing cancelled the commemoration and renamed the day “Europe Day” in order to go further in the reconciliation with Germany. In September 1981, President François Mitterrand restored the commemoration of the victory and the public holiday.
Ever since, the tradition has the President hold a public ceremony at 10:30am in Paris : he places a flower arrangement at the feet of the De Gaulle Parisian statue, then he walks through the Champs-Elysées avenue up to place de l’Etoile when the national anthem is played as he recalls the troops who fought. The President closes the ceremony placing a flower arrangement on the grave of the unknown solider (who died during the battle but couldn’t be identified) resting under the Arc de Triomphe. Last but not least, the Chant des Partisans (the liberation song) is sung by the French army, and the President signs the remembrance guestbook before greeting the former fighter and Chiefs of Defense.