Bastille Day (also known as la Fête nationale) on July 14th commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789. The event sparked already heated times in France, leading to the French Revolution.
All across the country, the French tricolor flag waves during parades, festivals, fireworks, and other celebrations. The Eiffel Tower lights up in the blue, white and red of the country’s flag. The French proudly display motto Liberté, Egaliteé Fraternité (liberty, equality, and fraternity).
Along the Champs-Elysées, the French put on the oldest and largest military parade in Europe for Bastille Day. Of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration or France if the festivities didn’t include delicious food or wine. Picnics in parks and along the rivers, baguettes with the best cheeses and fresh fruit and elaborate dishes all become part of the festivities. The City of Lights comes alive with music, dancing, and singing, too. And it’s all punctuated with the grand finale of fireworks.
HOW TO OBSERVE BASTILLE DAY
Join in the merriment on July 14th. Plan a visit to France. While the holiday is a French national holiday, many places around the world join the celebrations.
- Head to Toronto, Canada for their Bastille Day festival. They indulge in French culture from food to sports.
- In the United States, there are more than 50 cities holding events in honor of the French revolutionaries. Some of the most prominent take place in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York. However, if that’s too far to travel, check your local event guides for festivities near you.
- London celebrates the day with music, entertainment, tournaments, and other such merriment. Depending on the location, you may even find a garden party or guillotine.
- If New Zealand is in your travel plans, you’ll find a French connection there. Festivals vary depending on where they are held, but worth checking out if you are there.
- French Polynesia celebrates in traditional Polynesian style. Festivals full of food, music, and dances rich in Polynesian heritage fill the day. Activities include canoe races, fire walking, and tattooing.
- In Guadeloupe celebrations similar to those in France take place on July 14th. The Caribbean island holds parades, festivals, and fireworks displays.
Staying where you are? Learn some French or enjoy some French cuisine. Study up on their history or their wines. Plan a trip to France. See a production of Les Miserables.
Learn more by visiting frenchmoments.eu and use #BastilleDay to share on social media.
HISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY
The Bastille was a military fortress, a prison, in Paris. It held political dissents during a time when the French monarchy and the country were going through upheaval. Empty coffers after supporting the Americans against the British in their revolution, continued spending by the king, famine, and unemployment created unrest among the population.
The attack on the Bastille came after King Louis XVI had summoned the Estates-General to address the economic crisis. The Estates-General is divided by social class; the clergy forms the 1st Estate, the nobility forms the 2nd Estate, and the commoners form the 3rd Estate. While the 3rd Estate outnumbered the other two, the 1st and 2nd could combine their efforts to overpower the 3rd Estate. Friction followed and led to the commoners forming the National Assembly and demanding a new constitution.
While the king recognized the National Assembly, he also made military maneuvers. When the 3rd Estate attacked the Bastille, the reasons were two-fold – they needed weapons and freeing the political prisoners represented liberty for France.
Although the French celebrated Bastille Day one year after revolutionaries stormed the prison, the day didn’t become an official holiday until 1880.
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