14 juillet

C’est la Fête Nationale !

In France July 14 is a national public holiday, when people across the country celebrate with fireworks, parades, picnics, and parties.

Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet (14 July), commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789 by the French masses. Nowadays, Paris is still at the centre of the celebrations, with a huge parade of military troops and an aircraft fly over. The festivities continue into the evening with a grand firework display and a free concert at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. One of the highlights of the concert is a performance by the famous Orchestre Nationale de la France. Elsewhere, in almost all towns and villages, local festivities include dinner, dancing, music, and firework displays.

The following video is of the Concert de Paris 14 juillet 2019. An incredible event, with a varied program and fabulous performances from all the artists, orchestra and singers. Although it’s in French, English subtitles can be displayed.

6 facts about Bastille Day

1.    The French don’t call it Bastille Day

In France, 14 July is called La Fête Nationale or Le Quatorze Juillet. So you do not wish a French person ‘Happy Bastille Day’. It’s not the custom. Instead you can wish them ‘Bonne Fête Nationale’, or Happy National Day!

 2.    The Bastille Day parade is the oldest and largest military parade in Europe

The tradition of the parade started in 1880. It is quite a spectacular event with French troops marching along the Champs-Élysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. People line the streets to watch the parade and then later to watch the firework display. They even visit their local fire station to enjoy music, dancing, food, and drinks! 

3.    The holiday was originally called the Fête de la Fédération 

In 1790, one year after the storming of the Bastille, the French celebrated with a national holiday, Fête de la Fédération, in honour of the French Revolution. Years later, this date was chosen as the official French national day and La Fête Nationale became a national holiday in 1880.  

4.    Countries around the world celebrate Bastille Day

Many places across the globe, celebrate Bastille Day and you will find a festival atmosphere in places as far afield as South Africa, India, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, United Kingdom and the USA.

5.    Vincent van Gogh painted a picture of the national day celebrations

Van Gogh spent many years in France and his painting entitled the ‘14th of July’, created in 1886, shows a street in Paris in blue, white and red depicting the national day celebrations.

Vincent Van Gogh's painting depicting the 14 July celebrations - https://www.vincentvangogh.org/
Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the 14 July celebrations

6.    The key to the Bastille is on display in George Washington’s house in the USA

After the 1789 uprising, the Bastille was torn down. The Marquis de Lafayette (who played a part in the US and French Revolutions) sent the prison key to his good friend George Washington. Today, the Bastille Key is on display in the former president’s house, Mount Vernon, in Virginia in the USA.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short lesson in French history. If learning about the culture and history of France is something that interests you, why not ask to include it in your French training with Laetitia?