Bastille Day 2021: what is La Fête Nationale?

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Bastille Day 2021: what is La Fête Nationale?

Day of the Bastille is a French national holiday. It is celebrated all over the world by French citizens as they look back on their history.

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We explain what the national holiday means, where it comes from and how people celebrate it.

What is Bastille Day?

On July 14, 1789, ordinary Frenchmen stormed the Bastille and began to dismantle it, triggering the start of the French Revolution.

In recent months, France has suffered from several food shortages and resentment towards King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette has grown.

The Bastille was originally built as part of fortifications for the city of Paris. It eventually became a state prison, “reserved for upper-class criminals, political troublemakers and spies,” according to the History website. Most of the prisoners were held on direct orders from the king. It was an imposing structure, 30 meters high.

According to History, on July 13, revolutionaries started shooting at soldiers guarding the Bastille. After these fired back, mobs stormed the Paris Arsenal and an arsenal to acquire a significant number of muskets.

On the morning of July 14, an armed mob surrounded the prison and later fought the guards of the Bastille with the help of army deserters. Finally, the military governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jourdan de Launay, hoisted the white flag of surrender. He would be killed by rioters later that same day.

This event marked the beginning of a series of events that would lead to the abolition of the monarchy in 1792 and the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette for treason in 1973.

July 14 was declared an official national holiday in France in 1880.

How is Bastille Day Celebrated?

France celebrates Bastille Day with a military parade along the famous Champs-Elysées. In the evening, fireworks are set off at the Eiffel Tower.

The president, Emmanuel Macron, is also scheduled to address the nation.

Much like the 4th of July in the US, the day has become a day for families and friends to gather to celebrate.

Fireworks and festivals often take place throughout France and in French communities around the world to commemorate the important day.

Of course, food is often central to celebrations, and French classics, as well as picnic foods, become central to people who gather.

The French national anthem, Le Marseillaise, is also an important part of the day’s commemoration, as the lyrics speak of defeating corrupt monarchies and arming its citizens for battle.

On this national holiday, most employees in France have a day off. However, COVID-related restrictions may change the way some celebrations take place.

France and the USA

Structure G7 Summit
US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speak after posing for photos at the G7 summit on June 11, 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. Leon Neal/Getty Images

For la Fête Nationale, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a statement.

He said: “On behalf of the United States of America, I send my warm wishes to the people of France as they celebrate their National Day.

“We have a lasting and close relationship with France, our oldest ally. In the spirit of ‘Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité’, the United States cherishes its relationship with France, defined by our shared values ​​and our belief in democracy and human rights.

“We fought side by side during two world wars and worked together in the aftermath to create a more prosperous and secure Europe. We recognize and value France’s contributions to global security, including in Africa and in the Middle East, and applaud France’s leadership on climate, including the Paris Agreement.

“The United States is committed to working with France to combat the climate crisis and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our countries’ partnership is extensive and multifaceted, and we appreciate France’s contributions to creating a more peaceful and prosperous world.

“Best wishes to the French people for a joyous national holiday and a successful year ahead.”

Eiffel Tower
Fireworks explode in the sky over the Eiffel Tower, in a photo taken from the observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower, at the end of the Bastille Day events in Paris on July 14. Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

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