Today is July 14th! It’s our national day! Happy Bastille Day everyone!

10 days ago in the US we were celebrating the 4th of July! And on the 4th of July, you know what you’re celebrating…

But what about the French? Do we know? I can hear you say “Of course you know!”

Well actually, we don’t know.

Want to know why?

So exactly what do French people celebrate on July 14th? Of course, everyone is going to say the Storming of the Bastille!

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

The truth is no one really knows!

That’s because during the French Revolution, there were two big July 14th!

The first one in 1789: la prise de la Bastille

Prise-Bastille

La Bastille was a State Prison, which in people’s eyes, represented the tyranny of the monarchy because being sent there was completely arbitrary and did not require any kind of proof or trial. Also, no one knew what went on inside and so it left room for people’s worst fantasies.

The second one came on year later in 1790: le fête de la fédération

Federation

This day saw the celebration of the short lived Constitutional Monarchy.

This could have been the end of the Revolution as everyone seemed happy with the new prospect of a more liberal and enlightened monarchy. But as we all know the Revolution did not stop then and everything went from bad to worse for the Royal Family and the rest of the country.

So? July 14th? Bastille in 1789 or Fédération in 1790? 

By the way, when did July 14th become France’s national day? Anyone? About a century later in 1880 at the beginning of the third republic. But, at the time nobody wanted to say whether they thought more highly of the Revolution or of the Constitutional Monarchy. Regimes had changed very often during the 19th century so it wasn’t really safe to be too opinionated! The Law is purposely not saying much:

“La République adopte la date du 14 juillet comme jour de la fête nationale annuelle”

The Republic adopts the date of July 14th as annual national day.

Let’s end on a festive note! How do we celebrate our French National Day?

1-“Le défilé”: a military parade takes place in most big French cities. The biggest one is in Paris, along with the Président de la République.

147665_le-defile-militaire-du-14-juillet-sur-les-champs-elysees-a-paris-le-14-juillet-2011

2- In the evening, we celebrate with “le bal populaire”

bal-populaire-14-juli-bal-populaire-14-juillet-jpg-6

It is a local dance hop where you can have fun with your friends, drink some lovely wine, dance, and then we…

3- … watch the fireworks! Les feux d’artifice! They happen everywhere in France: big cities, small towns, everywhere! (this picture was taken in Lyon)

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Not that different from the 4th of July!

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