ExperiencePlus! Blog

Le Quatorze Juillet or Bastille Day

By ExperiencePlus! Tour Leader, Marie Lavigne.

Bastille Day or le quatorze juillet (14th of July) is the French national holiday, very similar to Independence Day, or the 4th of July, in the US both in name and attitude.

Le quatorze juillet commemorates the storming of the Bastille on, you guessed it, the 14th of July, in 1789. The Bastille was a Parisian prison and a symbol of the arbitrary power of Louis the 16th’s regime. By capturing this symbol, the people expressed their fight against oppression and the king’s absolute power. Their desire was that the power be based on the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers. As in the US, where the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaled the start of the American Revolution, in France the storming of the Bastille began the Great Revolution. In both countries, the national holiday symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government.

Although all that remains of the Bastille fortress is a small wall on the platform of Métro line 5 in Paris, its name is an enduring symbol of the French ideals of liberté, égalité and fraternité.

The official festivities are held on the morning of July 14th, with a military parade on the Champs-Elysées in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in front of the Président de la République and are topped with a fly over of the Patrouille de France in an acrobatic air show. Similar in spirit to the American Independence Day or Canada Day, le quatorze juillet is an event that splashes fireworks and parades throughout France, from the capital to small rural villages everyone goes out to celebrate. In the small village where I grew up in the south of France le quatorze juillet celebration started with “le défilé aux lampions” where the children parade with small lanterns hanging on sticks. They lead the way to where the fireworks show takes place over the river. The fireworks are typically followed by a banquet meal with music and dancing on the village’s main square. All generations meet for a relaxed and fun evening together. Just like many national holidays in other countries, le quatorze juillet is an opportunity for everyone to get together, eat, drink and cultivate the savoir vivre, or ability to live life well.

Read more about the author and French Bicycle Tour Leader  Marie Lavigne.