For over a century now, the French have celebrated Bastille Day. Being in Australia, you may be wondering why this is such a big deal. Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille, a military fortress and prison, on July 14, 1789. The Bastille was a symbol of the tyranny and power of the French monarchy. It was this violent uprising that marked the beginning of the French Revolution, and the subsequent downfall of King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. Today Bastille Day celebrations are held in French communities all around the world, including Australia.
Now that we have the basics down, let’s get into five things that you probably didn’t know about the national holiday.
1. Parades, fireworks and parties galore.
The day is a very serious occasion and one for remembrance. That being said, many people attend large, public celebrations. Every Bastille Day, a large military parade marches through Paris commemorating the event. Other celebrations have included musical performances, communal meals, dances and galas and spectacular fireworks displays. Some French prefer to quietly celebrate the day in reflection with close family and friends.
French jets mark Bastille Day in Paris in 2017
© Joe deSousa/Unsplash
2. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.
The first military parade was held in 1880 and now the event is quite the extravaganza. Beginning at the Arc de Triomphe, French servicemen and women march along the Champs-Élysées, finishing up at the Place de la Concorde. At the same time, a military aircraft flyover is also performed. The spectacle is witnessed by massive crowds, including the French president and other special guests. There is a real sense of community as the streets turn to a sea of blue, white and red as onlookers gather to watch the parade.
Troops march along the Champs-Elysées during the Bastille Day military parade on 14 July 2018
© Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
3. The French love to party at fire stations!
The Bals de Pompier (Fireman’s Balls) are one of the most popular events that commemorates Bastille Day! Party goers enjoy music, dancing, food and drinks at local fire stations. A popular feature of the balls are disco lights, live bands and DJs to really get people into the party mood. It is a highly sought after event that attracts large crowds, so wait times can be more than two hours before you will be allowed entry into the party. This is a celebration so expect the champagne to be flowing and be ready to join in a rendition of La Marseillaise. If you desire to attend one of these balls in the future, know that you will likely be charged a small entry fee or asked to place a donation. Where does the money go? Back to the fire station so they can host another epic ball of course!
Firefighters serve partygoers at a Fireman’s Ball.
4. There were only seven prisoners in the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
The storming of the Bastille will forever mark the beginning of the French Revolution. However, there were only SEVEN prisoners being held at the time. Yes, SEVEN! What’s been described as a military fortress, it’s surprising that there were so few prisoners. Nonetheless, all seven prisoners were freed during the storming of the Bastille. At the same time, revolutionaries were able to access much-needed gunpowder which was stored in the prison, and demonstrated that they were turning against the power of the tyrannical monarchy.
Bastille Day fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower
© Joe deSousa/Unsplash
5. It took 91 years before Bastille Day became a national holiday.
The Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation) was a huge festival held throughout France in 1790 that commemorated the one year anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution. While that day was celebrated in the following years, it took 91 years for the event to be officially recognised as a national holiday. In 1880, July 14 was finally recognised as the French national holiday (La Fête Nationale), celebrating the revolution itself and national unity.
Celebrate Bastille Day right here in Australia. Across our country, celebrations are in full swing. Attend one of the many festivals, go sing your heart out at a concert or enjoy a glass of champagne with some delicious cheese or macarons at a foodie extravaganza. Enjoy the very best of Australian food, wine and entertainment, while celebrating this important date in French history.
Celebrate Bastille Day this July 14 2021 with 10% off sitewide at Emperor Champagne. This very special offer is for two days only, ending midnight Thursday, 15 July, with code BASTILLE10. So get your favourite champagne now and celebrate Bastille Day in style!
The crowd at Champs Élysées on Bastille Day.
Blog article written by Maddison Sutton.