Bastille Day commemorates the seizing of the Bastille prison by the people on 14 July 1789. This was the start of the French Revolution. The prison, despite only holding seven prisoners at the time of its capture, was a symbol of the absolute power of King Louis XV1. By capturing the prison, the people signalled that the monarchy’s reign and their oppression was over.
Being its most important national holiday, France celebrates the 14th of July each year with parties and parades. The festivities start in Paris on Bastille Day Eve with dancing in the Bastille Square the place where the fortress once stood as well as many other places and there are fireworks at most local villages around Paris. On the day itself, celebrations include a military march up the Champs Elysees accompanied by jets overhead expelling blue, white and red smoke (for French tricolour flag colours). A fireworks display at night takes place at the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower (click here for clip of fireworks). In every village in France the streets are filled with people having fun and plenty of champagne.
Bastille Day is not only celebrated in France but also in many other places around the world:
- In Australia,
is celebrated by French community groups. To be informed about French events around Australia on Bastille Day and other times, join our community.
- On 60th street in New York, an open air picnic with chequered table cloths is set up along three blocks, from Fifth to Lexington, where the French culture, food and savoir faire are shared by the French American community.
- In LA, the Bastille Day Festival is celebrated in the beautiful gardens of the Page Museum on Wilshire Boulevard with French gastronomic delicacies and live entertainment including a Provencal petanque tournament and a Parisian waiters' race.
- In Philadelphia they gather outside the walls of Eastern State Penitentiary and re-enact the Storming of the Bastille as thousands of cakes are thrown from the walls (in accordance with Marie Antoinette's saying about let them eat cake).
- Pondicherry on India's south eastern coast celebrates Bastille Day with plenty of French pomp and pageantry with a parade of retired soldiers in war finery singing the French and Indian national anthems, while French flags adorn local houses.
- The Tahitian Heiva i Tahiti festival which concludes on Bastille Day combines French celebrations with traditional native canoe races, fire walking and tattooing.
For facts about Bastille Day, click here.
Read a blog we wrote about Bastille day