French Bastille Day – 14th July, 2011
La Fête Nationale or Bastille Day is celebrated on the 14th of July and is a day of historic significance in France. This is the day to remember the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison. This act was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation. This event led to the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. It also marked the beginning of a new democratic era in France, where people had a say in the decisions of its leaders. It is celebrated among the people with great enthusiasm since, soon after on 26 August, the proclamation of the historic Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen followed.
On 20th May, 1880, it was proposed that France select 14th July as a yearly national holiday for the celebration of this national festival, honouring the times to come and the times gone by. This became an official law on 6th July, 1880, when it was pronounced that the Bastille Day would be noted and “celebrated with all the brilliance that their local resources allow.” There has been no looking back since then, as the festivities begin amidst lots of fun and gala, with people reveling in the air of national jamboree.
How Is It Celebrated Today?
Bastille Day in France is synonymous with the belief that good always wins over evil. It is celebrated with great gusto and enthusiasm amongst the French as well as other nations, as they mark it as an occasion of democratic significance. France’s first step towards people’s rule is celebrated with fireworks all over the nation, especially in Paris near the Eiffel Tower.
A parade opens on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris with cadets from the École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale. An arobatics team puts on an impressive display and it has become customary to invite defense units from France’s allies to the parade. The President also has the authority on this day to pardon criminals or petty offenders. In 2007, President Sarkozy declined to continue this practice as well as the tradition of giving interviews to the press.
On a lighter note, Bastille Day also provides an opportunity for everyone to attend the Bal du 14 Juillet, a distinctive national ball held on the evening of the 13th of July. People are encouraged to dress up in elaborate costumes for the occasion, in accordance with a theme selected every year.
It’s Fun Time for Young Ones!
Celebrating the occasion of Bastille Day with children can be a fun and merry learning experience for the li’l ones. Some steps to do so are:
1) Decorate your class with blue and white decorations to mark the arrival of Bastille Day.
2) Organize a drama in class where children can enact various roles, from the haughty Louis XVI to the prisoners locked up at the infamous Bastille Prison.
3) Discuss the meanings of democracy and republic with children and ask them to reflect on what they would do to make their nation a better place.
4) Arrange a Baking Day in school where children can assist you in making a few French delicacies.
5) Firehouses welcome young visitors and adults on the 13th and 14th of July in their own unique way of paying tribute to the Bastille Day.
6) Learn French words and phrases using tools such as The French bi-lingual CD & Book set, The French Christmas Song Book & CD set or choose for a vast array of French bi-lingual story books in our bi-lingual book section of our website
“No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by the force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments, tyrants and armies cannot stand." - J. Michael Straczynski
The Bastille Day is viewed globally as a philanthropic opportunity for charitable aid. It reminds us that a part of mankind is still weighed down by the chains of slavery and oppression, struggling to fight for their own basic rights of life. The French motto of “Liberty, Fraternity and Equality” still holds true today and we need to abide by it to make our world a free and peaceful one.
Article written on behalf of Global Kids Oz by Annie Besant