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Bastille Day

national and public holidays in France National Holiday in France

Bastille Day is the National Day of France and is celebrated on 14 July Image credit: Jan Novak / 123RF Stock Photo

When is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day is celebrated on 14 July and marks the birth of the French Republic. It is the National Day of France.

If 14 July falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a holiday in lieu. If 14 July is a Thursday, it is common for many people to take the Friday off to create a 'pont' (bridge ) to the weekend.

In France, it is referred to as la Fête Nationale ("National Holiday") or 'la fête du 14-Juillet' (14th July Holiday).

Technically the holiday marks the Fête de la Fédération of the 14 July 1790, which was a huge feast and event to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France.

History of Bastille Day

However the holiday is usually seen as a celebration of the storming of the Bastille.

After years of misrule by the Monarchy with increasing taxes and higher food prices, the French people had finally united in a popular uprising in an effort to take control of their own country.

On 14 July 1789 the people of Paris banded together to march on the Bastille. The Bastille was 14th century medieval fortress that became a state prison. It was used by the King to imprison his opponents, often without trial and was seen as representing the despotism of the regime of Louis the 16th.

The storming of the prison marked the beginning of the French Revolution and came to symbolize liberty, democracy and the struggle against oppression for all the people of France.

On the one-year anniversary of the fall of Bastille, 14 July 1790, delegates from across the country assembled in Paris to proclaim their allegiance as one national community at the Fête de la Fédération.

Bastille Day was declared a French national holiday on 6 July 1880.

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How is Bastille Day celebrated?

In the morning of 14 July, Parisians celebrate the holiday with a grand military parade along the Champs Élysées. Known as 'Le Défilé' (the parade), this is the oldest and largest military parade in Europe with more than 4,000 servicemen involved and is attended by the French President and other key dignitaries.

Parties and colourful fairs take place throughout France in celebration of Bastille Day.

La Fête Nationale is also a public holiday on 14 July in French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre et Miquelon and Wallis and Futuna.


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