Sacré bleu! It’s been more than 200 years since the French toppled their long-standing monarchy, symbolized by the storming of a fortress and political prison in Paris, and now the event has become an international celebration of freedom from tyranny. Nearly a dozen countries around the world have organized events and parties to commemorate the day — do you know how you’re going to celebrate Bastille Day? In France, it’s commonly known as la Fête nationale, or the National Celebration. However, the English speaking world has taken to calling it Bastille Day to honor the moment when a mob of French revolutionaries charged into Paris’ Bastille, a major point in the French Revolution. The first celebration can be traced back to July 14, 1790, exactly one year after the Bastille fell. Since then, it has continued to grow, and large parties are held all over the world.
Bastille Day timeline
- July 6, 1880
Bastille Day becomes official
Bastille Day is voted to be a yearly national holiday in France
- July 14, 1790
The first Fête de la Fédération
Fête de la Fédération takes place on the one year anniversary of the storming of The Bastille to celebrate French unity.
- July 14, 1789
Bastille is stormed
French revolutionaries storm The Bastille, in a victory both strategic and symbolic.
Bastille Day Activities
Find a party near you
In the United States, more than 50 cities have established some form of an official Bastille Day celebration. Some of the largest are found in New York, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and New Orleans — all of which have large pockets of strong French influence.
Watch a documentary
The storming of the Bastille set in motion a chain of events that not only shaped the course of French history, but had a profound impact on the forms of government that emerged in the 19th century. Take some time to learn about the wars, treaties, and shifting borders that all arose after the French Revolution.
Throw your own party
Can’t make it to any of the biggest Bastille Day celebrations in America? No problem. Throwing a French-themed party is easy. If you’re not into the cliches and stereotypes, you can have a more authentic experience by serving what the Parisian locals actually drink. Citron Pressé on a hot summer’s day anyone?
Why We Love Bastille Day
It symbolizes freedom
If you’ve ever seen the Palace of Versaille, then you probably have an idea why the rebellion began — one only needs so much gilded wood and pink marble to be happy in life. By storming the Bastille, the French commoners made it known that their voices would be heard, and that they wanted freedom from the long-prevailing feudal system.
It’s a shared sentiment
All over the world, countries have started their own Bastille Day celebrations. Often, it begins in a pocket where there is a large French immigrant population. But the French food, wine, and culture that springs from these celebrations has attracted the local populations as well. It’s now known as an international day to feast, drink and be free.
It’s a day to rest and recover
In many smaller towns throughout France, friends, neighbors, and family members get together the day before the official holiday, on July 13, to eat and drink. This makes the holiday even more important, giving them a perhaps needed day off to recover from the night before.