Bastille Day (also known as la Fête Nationale) on July 14th commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789. The event sparked already heated times in France, leading to the French Revolution.
All across the country, the French tricolor flag waves during parades, festivals, fireworks, and other celebrations. The Eiffel Tower lights up in the blue, white and red of the country’s flag. The French proudly display motto Liberté, Egaliteé Fraternité (liberty, equality, and fraternity).
Along the Champs-Elysées, the French put on the oldest and largest military parade in Europe for Bastille Day. Of course, it wouldn’t be a celebration or France if the festivities didn’t include delicious food or wine. Picnics in parks and along the rivers, baguettes with the best cheeses, and fresh fruit and elaborate dishes all become part of the festivities. The City of Lights comes alive with music, dancing, and singing, too. And it’s all punctuated with the grand finale of fireworks.
WHEN IS BASTILLE DAY?
The annual international celebration of French freedom from tyranny occurs on Bastille Day on July 14.
BASTILLE DAY HISTORY
The Bastille was a military fortress, a prison, in Paris. It held political dissents during a time when the French monarchy and the country were going through upheaval. Empty coffers after supporting the Americans against the British in their revolution, continued spending by the king, famine, and unemployment created unrest among the population.
The attack on the Bastille came after King Louis XVI had summoned the Estates-General to address the economic crisis. The Estates-General is divided by social class; the clergy forms the 1st Estate, the nobility forms the 2nd Estate, and the commoners form the 3rd Estate. While the 3rd Estate outnumbered the other two, the 1st and 2nd could combine their efforts to overpower the 3rd Estate. Friction followed and led to the commoners forming the National Assembly and demanding a new constitution.
While the king recognized the National Assembly, he also made military maneuvers. When the 3rd Estate attacked the Bastille, the reasons were two-fold – they needed weapons and freeing the political prisoners represented liberty for France.
Although the French celebrated Bastille Day one year after revolutionaries stormed the prison, the day didn’t become an official holiday until 1880.
BY THE NUMBER
2 – the number of towers in the original construction of the Bastille.
75 – the height in feet of the original two towers.
8 – the number of towers after the building was turned into a rectangular fortress.
55 – the number of captives held at any given time by Cardinal Richelieu in the 17th century.
7 – the number of prisoners freed after the storming of the Bastille.
5 – the number of years aristocrat Marquis de Sade was jailed in the Bastille.
60 francs – the amount of money donated to families of the revolutionaries by Thomas Jefferson.
91 – the number of years it took for Bastille Day to become a national holiday.
3501 – the number of soldiers in attendance at the 2015 Bastille Day military parade.
31 – the number of helicopters at the 2015 Bastille Day military parade.
5 FACTS ABOUT BASTILLE DAY
It isn’t called Bastille Day in France
In France, the day is known as ‘Fête Nationale,’ or ‘National Celebration.’
Why the Bastille was stormed
The storming of the Bastille occurred in 1789 due to rising tensions between the royalty and their subjects.
Down with the monarchy!
Since the Bastille was a symbol of oppression and tyranny, it was singled out and raided.
The oldest military parade in Europe.
Bastille Day celebrations include the largest and oldest military parade since 1880, taking place on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
It took 91 years to become a national holiday.
Even though celebrations started the year following the storming of the Bastille, the holiday wasn’t made official until 1880.
BASTILLE DAY DATES