Saturday, July 14, 2007

July 14 Bastille Day!!

Today is Bastille Day!! ...the French version of July 4th.

Bastille Day, the French national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signaled that the king's power was no longer absolute: power should be based on the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers.

Although the Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens; like the Tricolore flag, it symbolized the Republic's three ideals: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for all French citizens. It marked the end of absolute monarchy, the birth of the sovereign Nation, and, eventually, the creation of the (First) Republic, in 1792.

Many cities hold fireworks during the night. Many dancing parties are organised (bals du 14 juillet) and it is customary that firefighters organise them (bals des pompiers). Those celebrations take place from 13 July at night to 14 July.

Military parades, called Défilés du 14 juillet, are held on the morning of 14 July, the largest of which takes place on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic.

The parade opens with cadets from certain schools, then other infantry troops, then motorised troops; while aviation of the Patrouille de France flies above. In recent times, it has become customary to invite units from France's close allies into the parade; for instance, in 2004, British troops led the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead.

Read more about it here, or on Wikipedia.

Bastille Day also falls during the running of the Tour de France, and is traditionally the day upon which French riders will make a special effort to take a stage victory for France.

An excerpt from "This French Life" describes how some outside of Paris will celebrate this holiday.

We are going to celebrate by having crepes for breakfast, spending the day out with the family, and ironically my parents have invited us to a symphony in the park for kids tonight. As much as I am going to enjoy our time out today, I can hardly wait to celebrate this holiday in France next year!

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