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Why is the French National Day celebrated on July 14?

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

July 14 is a special date for France because it is the National Day. It's a public holiday, so the majority of French people don't work and the shops are normally closed.

But in the street, it's party time! Discover the origins and traditions of July 14 🎆

The French Revolution of July 14, 1789

The National Day is the celebration of the Storming of the Bastille ("La Prise de la Bastille") which put an end to the absolute monarchy in France. To better understand, we have to go back to 1789. France was going through a very serious crisis: the harvests were bad, work was scarce, purchasing power was very low and the French people lived in the most total misery. After a long period of famine, the people were angry and decided to take up arms against the king of the time (Louis XVI) who lived in opulence at the Palace of Versailles with his court.

On July 14, 1789, the angry people decided to seize La Bastille, which was a huge prison. It no longer exists today but it was located on the current Place de la Bastille (4th arrondissement).

The Bastille in Paris
The Bastille in Paris

Their idea was to take over the Bastille to get more weapons. After hours of battle, the governor ends up lowering his arms and lets the rebellious people enter the fortress. The prisoners are freed, the prison is besieged and the bourgeois unite with the people to bring down the king. This day will forever symbolize the beginning of the French Revolution.

The absolute monarchy will be abolished, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette d'Autrice will be beheaded (by guillotine) in public on January 21 and October 16, 1793, ending nearly 1,300 years of monarchy in France.

Federation Day

A century later, on July 14, 1790, we celebrate the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille. It's Federation Day, uniting all local federations into one national federation and bringing order and unity to a country in crisis.

That's actually what we celebrate on the 14th of July! It was officially on July 6, 1880 that July 14 was declared a National Day.

Today's traditions

The parade of the Patrouille de France

Every year, a military parade is organized on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is the unmissable meeting of the French with their army and honors the women and men engaged in the service of France. In total, more than 5000 soldiers, 200 horses and more than 200 vehicles will parade in front of the public, in the presence of the President of the Republic and live on television.

It's also a way to show the rest of the world the power and greatness of the French army.

July 14 military parade on the Champs Elysées

The air parade

The event begins with the parade of 60 fighter planes flying over Paris in the colors of France (blue, white, red). An impressive sight!

Popular balls and fireworks

In all cities of France (from the smallest village to the capital), events are organized to celebrate July 14th.

You can see fireworks all over the country! The majority of towns also organize popular balls, concerts, festivals... Check with the town hall of your town to find out the program of festivities!

fireworks over the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Happy July 14th!

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