How to celebrate Bastille Day like the French

With Bastille Day falling on a Sunday this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate with food, wine and music during the whole weekend.

Fireworks burst around the Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 14, 2013 as part of France's annual Bastille Day celebrations.

Fireworks burst around the Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 14, 2013 as part of France's annual Bastille Day celebrations. Source: AFP

If you want to celebrate Bastille Day like the French, the first thing you need to know is that the French national day is not called Bastille Day over there. They usually go with “le 14 juillet” (the 14 July), or “la fête nationale” (the national holiday).

So why do we call it Bastille Day?

We call it Bastille Day in English because the day celebrates the storming in 1789 of the Bastille, a prison King Louis XVI used to detain his opponents. The Storming of the Bastille was a turning point in the French Revolution, eventually leading to the end of the monarchy.

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Troops march down the Champs-Elysees avenue during the annual Bastille Day military in Paris, on July 14, 2014.  AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD
Troops march down the Champs-Elysees avenue during the annual Bastille Day military in Paris, on July 14, 2014. Source: AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD


How do they celebrate in France?

On 14 July, there’s always a military parade in the morning starting at the Arc de Triomphe and ending at Place de la Concorde. This year, American president Donald Trump will attend after being invited by French president Emmanuel Macron. In the evening, there’s a free concert on the Champ de Mars and fireworks are set off from the Eiffel Tower.

There’s also a tradition in Paris where fire stations stay open at night on 13 and 14 July to welcome visitors to celebrate. It’s called the Bastille Day Firemen’s Balls.

There are more fireworks, concerts and events all over France.

French people take advantage of the day off by meeting up with their friends and family for a picnic or a BBQ. Think delicious, but simple food, like cheese, sandwiches, charcuterie, pastries, strawberries, ratatouille (and Champagne, of course!). They’ll often play pétanque, a type of boules, in backyards and in parks.

French picnic
Source: Brett Stevens


And in Australia?

No military parade or Firemen’s Balls for us, but there’s still plenty to do in Australia to celebrate Bastille Day.

The biggest events are the (11 – 14 July) and the (12 – 13 July). As with all good French events, there’s a lot of food, wine and music, but also master classes, activities for children, film screenings and markets.  

 


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Published 12 July 2019 at 2:06pm
By Audrey Bourget