One of the most elaborate national holidays and celebrations in the world, Bastille Day in Paris is one that celebrates France’s history as a republic, and focuses attention on the country. Held on the 14th of July every year, Bastille Day is known for its military parade through Paris, and for its amazing firework displays. How, then, did Bastille Day originate, and what are some of the key parts of the celebrations? Moreover, what particular activities and events are planned for this year’s version of the festival?
Bastille Day originated with the 1789 storming of a fort and ammunition supply in Paris, which represented the turning point in the French Revolution for a break away National Assembly. The overtaking of the Bastille allowed the collected middle and working classes to hold their own against the aristocracy and the military, and led to the end of feudalism in France, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man for a new Republic. The day was made a national holiday from 1880, and was initially celebrated through reception feasts and military parades.
The day is now dominated by a military parade through Paris, which often includes international troops participating, and is overseen by the President. Garden parties are also held at the Palais de l’Elysee, while the President has the option of pardoning prisoners on the 14th of July. Fireworks are launched from the Eiffel Tower, and firehouses and stations are opened to the public for parties and food.
For this year’s Bastille Day, the fireworks around the Eiffel Tower are being set to the theme of ‘Disco Years’ in the 1970s and the 1980s – viewings from the Champs de Mars get very busy, so the majority of French people watch it on television, with coverage starting from 10.45pm – the fireworks themselves last for about half an hour. In addition, a lunch on the Grass is held at the Chateau de Versailles, and welcoming parades are carried out in different arrondissements of Paris for returning soldiers. Fire stations are opened from 9pm to 4am for parties.
The 14th of July also sees many of Paris’s museums and monuments close for the day, although some do stay open. Free admission is offered at the Louvre, and free ballet concerts are performed at the Opera de Paris. Longchamp Racecourse is also opened up for a garden party with racing, and the Parvis de la Mairie hosts an outdoor concert of Juliette et Jupiter. In addition, Madonna will be playing at the Stade de France, and Ilya Rahkovskly will be performing a piano recital at the Archives Nationales.
Celebrations are held around the world for Bastille Day, with long established traditions kept up in Belgium, as well as in French speaking colonies like Reunion, and French neighborhoods in major cities and towns. Bastille Day is particularly well celebrated in New Orleans in the United States. Anyone planning to visit Paris on and around Bastille Day should book well in advance to get a room, and should also expect to have to deal with larger crowds than usual around monuments, and down the Champs Elysees in the evening.
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