Bastille Day and the World Cup final collide on the weekend of July 14, 2018! On Saturday, France will celebrate Bastille Day. Then on Sunday, France battles Croatia for the World Cup.
What is Bastille Day?
For those of us celebrating Bastille Day, and for those who want to know more about it, here is a short description. Bastille Day, in French “la Fête Nationale ” or “le 14 juillet,” is an annual national public holiday. It celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. Because there were only a few prisoners there at the time, the storming was mostly symbolic. However, this was the start of the overthrow of Louis XVI’s regime and the beginning of the Republic of France. That means it is a big event for all the non-royalists in France.
During the years of the revolution, the prison was completely torn apart and never rebuilt. The site of the Bastille prison is now the Place de la Bastille. At its center is the July Column (“Colonne de Juillet”). Rather than commemorating the storming of the Bastille, this column recognizes those who fought in the revolution of July, 1830.
A little confusing, but taken together, the square and the column honor and remember commoners who fought for freedom from oppression. Atop the July Column is Auguste Dumont’s gilded statue, “Génie de la Liberté,” or Spirit of Freedom. Appropriate, don’t you think? Another place to see and feel some of the intensity of the emotions of the people is in the Louvre. Take a look at Delacroix’s moving painting, “Liberty Leading the People.” Delacroix used the July Revolution for his inspiration.
Bastille Day Celebrations
Along with the landmarks commemorating the revolutions, Bastille Day is a celebration of freedom. It is much like our Independence Day. In Paris, a gigantic French flag, or “tricolore,” is flown within the grand arch of the Arc de Triomphe. The French military parades down the avenue des Champs- Élysées. Mounted cavalry, foot soldiers, regimental bands and officers in vehicles follow each other in one of the oldest annual military parades. French air force planes will fly overhead. And, people will generally make merry and enjoy the show put on for them.
Like our own July 4 celebrations, Bastille Day in France features fireworks lighting up the night sky, neighborhoods having street parties and families and friends gathering for traditional French meals. On the Champs-de-Mars, a concert will entertain thousands. And across the whole country, the Marseillaise, or the French National Anthem, will play over the radio waves and bands will perform it repeatedly.
As a visitor, the festivities can be a lot of fun. But do not expect many shops, museums or restaurants to be open. This includes the Eiffel Tower which was built as a landmark celebrating the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. It will be closed in preparation of a grand fireworks display.
Around the World
Many places around the globe celebrate French heritage on Bastille Day. Among other more significant events, restaurants have special dinners and wine-pairings, people fly French flags, and, in New Orleans, waiters participate in races in the French Quarter. All in good fun celebrating Bastille Day!
For the World Cup, we hope there will be even more celebration in the French capital!
What does your community do to celebrate Bastille Day?