France celebrates Bastille Day as a national holiday on July 14 every year which was known as Fete Nationale or le quatorze juillet. Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison which housed many political prisoners, arms and ammunition, symbolized uprising by the oppressed people in France and end of Monarchy in the country.
Oppressed by the rule of Louis XVI, people of Paris stormed Bastille to challenge the absolute rule of monarchy in the country and to get hold of arms and ammunition to protect the general public. Bastille, which was known to house many prisoners who had displeased the royalty, had only seven inmates when people attacked it. Seeing a huge turnout of mob outside the fort, Bastille’s commander Governor de Launay surrendered. However, fighting resumed due to some misunderstanding. Around 108 people, mostly attackers, were killed in the fighting.
The storming of the Bastille led to abolition of feudalism on August 4 and proclamation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. On the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Day, the Fete de la Federation was held on Champ de Mars where a mass was organized and King Louis XVI along with his confidant General Lafayette took oath to the Constitution. A four-day feast was also organized and fireworks display dazzled the people with its sheer extravagance.
The celebration of Bastille Day was proposed by Benjamin Raspail on May 21, 1880, who proposed a law to celebrate July 14 as a nationalholiday everywhere. Assembly and Senate passed the bill and it was on July 6, 1880, that the law became official. The first official celebration of Bastille Day as a nationalholiday on July 14 was magnificent.
France President presides over the Bastille Day celebrations held at Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14 in the morning. Cadets from different military contingents followed by motorized troops and aviation troops are the highlights of the parade. France follows a tradition wherein it invites troops of Allied forces. President addresses media on the recent events and future projects and holds a party at Palais de l’Elysee. France’s Constitution empowers the President to pardon offenders. President has been pardoning some offenders since 1991. However, President Nicholas Sarkozy put an end to this practice in 2007. In 1979, a Guinness World record was made on the day for the largest outdoor gathering at a concert by Jean Michel Jarre on Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Bastille Day is celebrated in the United States, South Africa and Hungary. In the United States, cities like New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Seattle and Milwaukee celebrate the Bastille Day. Milwaukee organizes a four-day street festival in which a replica of Eiffel Tower is installed while Minneapolis celebrates the day with French food and wine, circus performers, music bands and a flea market. In Seattle, people of French origin organize picnics, organize performances and enjoyFrench food and wine. New York City and San Francisco too hold celebrations on a large scale. In Philadelphia, storming of the Bastille is re-enacted and pastries thrown at the supposed militia of Paris.
Franschhoek, which means French corner, in Cape Province of South Africa has been celebrating the day as a week-end festival for the last 15 years. Two-day celebrations are organized in Budapest, capital of Hungary.