Alphajet planes fly over the Arc de Triomphe during the annual Bastille Day military parade on Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 14, 2021 (Getty Images)
It is considered a symbol of freedom and democracy.
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The French call this day “Quatorze Juillet” (July 14) or “La Fête Nationale” – it is called Bastille Day outside the country but never in France itself.
Many English-speaking countries believe that this day commemorates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 – a major event of the French Revolution.
But what does the French national holiday really represent and why is it so important?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Bastille Day?
A common misconception is that Bastille Day celebrates the fall of the Bastille, which was a political prison and a symbol of the monarchy.
In fact, the origins of the day are more complex.
It is synonymous with another historical event in France, the Fête de la Fédération, according to historians.
Meaning “Federation Day” in English, it was a mass gathering held on July 14, 1790, a year after the attack on the Bastille by the Parisians.
The citizens planned to steal weapons and ammunition from the large medieval fortress to fight the royal soldiers stationed in the city, as the revolutionaries saw the Bastille as a symbol of the corruption of the monarchy.
People were unhappy with the reign of King Louis XVI, which had been dominated by food shortages and high taxes. The country was on the brink of an economic crisis.
After explosions of violence in Paris, an armed mob stormed the prison on the morning of July 14 and released the remaining seven prisoners held there.
Their actions sparked the French Revolution, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, his wife.
But the Federation Day of 1790 is just as significant in the history of July 14 as the storming of the prison itself.
The mass rally, attended by tens of thousands of people from all provinces of France, was organized on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Bastille attack.
It was designed to see into a new era that gave way to a French constitutional monarchy.
People converged on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris to witness a military parade led by Lafayette, a mass and a collective swearing-in. King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette gave short speeches.
Of course, less than three years later, the king and queen lose their heads in the guillotine, and the constitutional monarchy becomes the First French Republic.
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When is Bastille Day in 2021?
The national holiday is celebrated on July 14 each year, which is why it is known as “July Fourteenth”.
In 2021, July 14 falls on a Wednesday.
The day is celebrated so widely in France that it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t always been the country’s national holiday.
Instead, France had several days of national celebration reflecting the politics of its time. In almost a century, it has changed its national holiday six times.
How is July 14 celebrated?
It’s a public holiday in France, with millions of people spending time with family and friends and marking the day with fireworks, parades and parties – at least in normal times.
And the Federation Day, today the oldest and largest military parade in Europe, remains the flagship event of the country.
About 4,000 soldiers and police take part in the event held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and the French president makes an appearance.
But the traditional event will return this year in a reduced form, with 10,000 people in the stands instead of the usual 25,000.
People will need to show vaccination passes or a recent negative test to go, and all spectators will need to wear face masks.
There will also be a classical music concert on the Champ-de-Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and the Paris fireworks will take place.
However, July 14 is not limited to France, French citizens around the world are also hosting their own events.
Often the words “freedom, equality and brotherhood (brotherhood)” – the three fundamental beliefs of the revolution – are heard during celebrations.
The French flag and the country’s national anthem are both symbols of the revolution and the national holiday.
Can you wish someone a ‘Happy Bastille Day’ in French?
As the French call the day “Quatorze Juillet” or “La Fête Nationale” as opposed to Bastille Day, it is quite unusual to wish someone a “Happy Bastille Day” as you would any celebration in the Kingdom. -United.
Instead, the correct way to greet someone on this day is to say “Happy Fourteenth of July” or “Happy National Day,” which roughly translates to “have a nice national day” in English.
If you wanted a “Bonne Bastille” Frenchman, chances are he didn’t have a clue what you were talking about.