Vive la France! If you love street parties, today is the day the French celebrate the mother of all holidays, the July 14th French National Day (fête nationale), commonly known as Bastille Day in English-speaking countries. This major national holiday marks the day France won its independence from the absolute monarchy, and the beginning of the bloody French Revolution.
Bastille Day recognizes the day – July 14, 1789 – when Parisian mobs stormed and then tore down la Bastille, a stone prison, which was widely seen as a symbol of the monarchy’s absolute power because it was where opponents of the Royalty were jailed. We best remember the fall of the absolute and out-of-touch monarchy with the beheading of King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette.
All across France, and in French communities around the world, people celebrate with dances, parades, concerts and fireworks. So, expect to see plenty of red, white and blue French flags (drapeaux français) waving around! Get to know your French neighbors by walking down to your local fire station to participate in the traditional July 14th firemen’s ball.
Official Parisian festivities kick off in the morning with an impressive military parade along the famous Avenue Champs-Elysées, in the presence of the President of the French Republic and other French and foreign dignitaries. The French Air Force puts on a colorful air show, and the day ends with a fireworks extravaganza around the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero when night falls around 11pm.
Your Essential Bastille Day Vocabulary
Here are some useful French phrases to help you get into the spirit:
National Holiday – La Fête Nationale
14th of July – le quatorze juillet
the Storming of the Bastille – la Prise de la Bastille
the Republic – la République
Fireworks – le feu d’artifice
Public Holiday – le jour férié
Parade – le défilé
The French Revolution – la Révolution française
French flag – le drapeau français
Long live France – Vive la France
Happy Holiday – Bonne fête!