Bastille Day —celebrated on 14 July—is a special day for France as it symbolises the beginning of democracy and freedom of the people. It is the French National day and is called La Fete Nationale in French.
The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. On July 14, 1789, an outraged group of Parisians stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event of the French Revolution—marking the beginning of the end of the French Royalty and the beginning of the modern republic.
Events and Tradition
The day is celebrated with military parades, fireworks, festivals, communal meals, parties and dances. It also includes large picnics and musical performances.
Although every city, town and village throughout the country celebrates the day, the largest celebration is in Paris, where a parade marches past the famous Champs Elysées, in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests. At the end of the parade the French President and many foreign ambassadors wait and greet the military.
The day then ends in style with an awe-inspiring fireworks display at the country’s most iconic landmark – the Eiffel Tower.
10 Facts about Bastille Day
1. Bastille comes from the French word bastide, which means stronghold. It was formally known as the Bastille Saint-Antoine.
2. As the opening victory in the revolution, the storming of the Bastille is today celebrated as a national holiday.
3. The French National Anthem called la Marseillaise is a revolutionary song.
4. France's tricolour flag (blue, red and white) was introduced during the Revolution. The three colours represent the ideals of the French people – Liberte Egalite Fraternite (liberty, equality and fraternity) for all citizens.
5. There were only 7 prisoners at the Bastille when the people of Paris stormed on July 14th, 1789.
6. The Man in the Iron Mask was a Bastille prisoner from 1698 to 1703.
7. The famous philosopher and writer, Voltaire, and The Marquis de Sade were also prisoners of the Bastille.
8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a large Bastille Day celebration downtown that lasts four days. They even have a 43 foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower! Other US cities famous for their celebrations of this day include New Orleans, New York, and Chicago.
9. The famous bicycle race —the Tour de France—takes place during Bastille Day.
10. The Key to the Bastille was presented to George Washington in 1790. It was built by Charles V between 1370 and 1383.
Happy Bastille Day!