Key facts about Bastille Day - and why France celebrates every 14 July

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:37 am
Bastille Day takes place in France every July, marking the fall of Bastille in 1789 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Bastille Day takes place in France every July, marking the fall of Bastille in 1789.

But what is the national day of France, why does it take place and how is it celebrated?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day - which is called la Fête Nationale or Le 14 Juillet in France - marks the fall of Bastille, which was a military fortress and prison located in Paris

In 1789, Parisian citizens attacked the Bastille - a political prison and a symbol of the monarchy and an armoury - signalling the beginning of the French Revolution.

Citizens tried to seize weapons, ammunition and powder in order to fight the royal troops stationed in the vicinity of Paris.

The Bastille was initially built as a fortress guarding the eastern entrance of the city of Paris during the 1300s.

However, it was later used as a French state prison and a place of detention for important persons during the 17th and the 18th centuries.

The Bastille held political dissidents, many of whom were locked away without a trial by order of the King.

The prison was stormed by revolutionists on 14 July 1789, who then released the seven prisoners being detained at the site. It is largely considered the signal to the beginning of the French Revolution.

In the aftermath of the storming of the Bastille, the prison fortress was systematically dismantled until almost nothing remained of it.

When does it take place?

Bastille Day takes place in France every year on 14 July.

As they don’t call the day Bastille Day in France, instead referring to the date as la Fête Nationale, if you want to greet someone, it’s best to simply say ‘Bonne Fete Nationale’.

How is Bastille Day celebrated?

Bastille Day is a public holiday in France and is usually celebrated by nationwide festivities including fireworks, parades and parties.

France’s tricolor flag is usually seen by those celebrating, with the French motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité playing and La Marseillaise sung by those celebrating the day.

In one of the world’s oldest annual military parades, French troops march along the Champs-Elysées in Paris before French government officials and world leaders - a tradition which began in 1880.

In 2020, celebrations were largely muted due to the Covid pandemic, with less participants than usual and a reduced number of spectators.

This year, the parade will include 4,300 marching soldiers, 71 planes, 25 helicopters, 221 land vehicles and 200 horses of the Republican Guard.

According to AFP, the general public will be allowed to follow proceedings from the Champs-Elysées, while 25,000 people will be able to watch from the seated stands.

However, spectators will be required to show a health pass - with either proof of vaccination, a recent negative test, or proof they have recovered from Covid – and will also have to wear a mask.