What Is Bastille Day In France, And How Is It Celebrated

France celebrates its national day on July 14th, also known as Bastille Day. PM Modi is a Guest of Honour this year. Outlook explains the importance of Bastille Day and its significance to the French republic and people.

The military parade that takes place on Bastille Day

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues his two-day visit to Paris where he is engaging with French President Emmanuel Macron on a wide range of bilateral issues, he is also the Guest of Honour at the July 14th celebrations of Bastille Day, the French national day. It is marked by a state military parade, which Modi will be attending.

Ahead of the celebrations, Outlook delves into the significance of Bastille Day, and how it is commemorated in France.

Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789, a moment of immense cultural and historical significance for the French Republic. It marks the start of the French Revolution, a pivotal moment in French history. Yet, its real symbolism and significance lie in the fact that the French Revolution ended l'ancien régime, the rule of the monarchs.

Although Napoleon would take power later, he would introduce some of the most progressive law codes and set down the foundation for the new republic. No monarch after was able to roll back the clock. Despite the various setbacks that democratic movements in France would go on to suffer, Bastille Day remained that point in history where the needle shifted and France would later become a stable democracy, and no future rulers could alter the basic tenets of the nation, whatever autocratic tendencies they might have had.

Now, the storming of the Bastille Prison which was a symbol of torture and repression at the time, is celebrated on July 14th every year. It is a day when the nation celebrates the ideals of the Revolution and remembers the values that underpin the country. A festive day, it is marked by many events that celebrate the day citizens took to arms.

The main event takes place in Paris, where a grand military parade marches down the iconic Champs-Élysées. This parade showcases the might of the French military and honours its history and achievements. The President of France presides over the parade, where Modi is the Guest of Honour today.

In the evening, spectacular fireworks displays usually light up the skies across France. The most famous fireworks show is held in Paris, usually at the Eiffel Tower or the Champ de Mars. However, owing to recent events, France banned fireworks displays nationwide this year.

The festivities continue anyway. People gather in public spaces, such as parks, squares, and along the streets, to participate in various festivities. These include concerts, dance performances, street parties, and open-air picnics known as pique-niques. A festive and patriotic ambience with French flags adorning buildings and streets, and people wearing red, white, and blue—the colours of the flag. Many cities and towns organize parades, concerts, and cultural events to celebrate the occasion in addition to the main events in Paris.

Bastille Day serves as a reminder of France's revolutionary past and the enduring values of the French Republic. And today, the French celebrate it as the defining moment when the people turned to liberty, equality, and fraternity for guidance. Also, Bastille Day commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, a celebration of national unity.