Bastille Day, the French National Day
The French national day, known as Bastille Day in the United States, is simply called le 14 juillet -the 14th of July- by the French people. Indeed, the French national day commemorates three events.
The first one is la prise de la Bastille which took place on the 14th of July 1789 in Paris during the French revolution. The Bastille, as a fortress, armory and political prison, was a great symbol of the royal authority and its abuses of power. Therefore, the storming of the Bastille was one of the turning point of the revolution.
The next year, on the same date, the French people celebrated their unity during the Fête de la Fédération, which is the second event.
The revolution led to the instauration of a Republic, the first French Republic. But Napoleon Bonaparte came to power and the Republic became an Empire. The reign of Napoleon was followed by the restauration of monarchy and by the Second Republic which found an ending with the Second Empire.
But finally, after the defeat of Napoleon III against the Prussians on the 2nd of September 1870, the Third Republic was established and this time for good, as it lasted seventy years and was the foundation of the Fourth and Fifth Republics.
On the 30th of June 1878, a first feast was officially organized in Paris to honor the Republic. The impressionist Claude Monet recorded this celebration in the famous painting Rue Montorgueil. On the 14th of July of the following year, another feast was organized but it wasn’t until 1880 that the Republic chose the 14th of July as a yearly national day.
The 14th of July 1880 is therefore the third event that is commemorated, as the beginning of a ritual still in place to this day.
The highlights of the national day every year are the Military Parade on the Champs-Élysées and the fireworks at the Eiffel Tour.