Pomp and circumstance in French style. Bastille Day. The national holiday in France filled with revelry and patriotic events, celebrations and songs of the French revolution. Bastille Day is also known as “La Fete de la Bastille”, “Le quatorze juillet” or “La Fete Nationale”. Celebrated not only in France, but all over the world, this day is commemorated to mark and event that is said to have shaped France into what it is today. The traditional military parade has been held in Paris since 1880, with the exception of World War II. The parade is held on the Champs-Elysees and begins near the Arc de Triopmhe and continues throughout Paris. A grand and festive dance party is held on the Place de la Bastille where the prison once stood, in which Parisan’s layer on elaborate costumes . (Interestingly it is said that the remaining stones from the Bastille fortress were used in the construction of the Pont de la Concorde. Who knew?). Fireworks light up the skies around nightfall, launched near the Eiffel Tower, the Saint Germain des Pres district and around Montparnasse. Oh, to be in Paris on Bastille Day!
The historical event at the start of the French Revolution was the “Storming of the Bastille”. The Bastille (Bastion de Saint-Antoine) was a medieval fortress on the east side of Paris that was built to protect eastern Paris sometime during the 1370’s (Hundred Year’s War ). The Bastille was repurposed as a prison by King Louis XIII and soon became a symbol of the Monarchy’s absolute and sovereign power, said to provide French royalty with a secure facility to imprison political and social revolutionaries. In the eyes of the people, the Bastille was also a symbol of oppression. The historic event that took place on July 14, 1789 was a revolt of the people against the rule of the monarchy that had ruled for centuries. Of note, it was not to free to prisoners but to gain gunpowder and arms stored inside. At the time of the revolt, France was under rule the House of Bourbon, the last ruling family in France and under the reign King Louis XVI (and his equally infamous wife, Marie-Antoinette). The storming of the Bastille was a symbolic move towards forming a republic. In 1792 the formation of the first French republic was formed with the three ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all. In 1880, the ‘la fete nationale’, “Bastille Day” became an official holiday.
To those that are French, cheers to celebrating Bastille Day!