Blue, white and red flags will be fluttering Thursday as France and Francophiles around the world celebrate the country’s national day. Celebrated only 10 days after America’s own Independence Day, Bastille Day marks an important date for France. Here’s everything you need to know about the French holiday and its history.
What is Bastille Day? While in the Anglophone world the holiday has been dubbed Bastille Day, in France it is known as “Le Quatorze Juillet” (The 14th of July ) or “La Fête Nationale” (National Day). France has been celebrating it’s national day every year since 1880, according to the French presidential website.
What is the history behind the holiday? Bastille Day dates back to July 14, 1789 when a group of revolutionaries and troops stormed the medieval Bastille fortress in Paris that was being used as a prison for political prisoners. While there were not many prisoners being held at the Bastille in the late 1780s (seven at the time it was stormed), the prison was a symbol of the stringent and oppressive rule of the Bourbon monarchy. Food shortages and anger over attempts to assemble and draft a constitution mounted and the storming of the Bastille marked the start of the French Revolution that would see the overthrew of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.
Bastille Day symbolizes the end of the "ancien regime." France’s new revolutionary government ordered the Bastille prison torn down and the last stone was removed in 1790.
How is it celebrated? Fireworks, parades and parties mark the modern celebration of Bastille Day. The holiday kicks off in Paris with a military parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. In the evening attention shifts to the fireworks show fired from the Eiffel Tower. This year’s theme for the show is “Paris Is A Party.” Fireworks start at 11 p.m. local time and run for approximately 35 minutes. On Wednesday and Thursday parties in Paris’s fire stations, known as the Bals des Pompiers, are in full swing. For a full list of events click here.
Bastille Day celebrations have spread around the globe. A common greeting for the day is "Vive le 14 juillet" -- "long live the 14th of July."