La Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day, is a public holiday in France on 14 July each year, regardless of the day of the week.
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Bastille Day commemorates storming of the Bastille, a Parisian prison, on 14 July, 1789, during the reign of King Louis XVI, and the locking-in of the French Revolution.
For the previous few centuries, France had been under increasing archaic rule through the old monarchy. The revolution only took three years to turn this around and to transform France into a land of equality and democracy. Other changes, like the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and a march on Versailles, all contributed to the new France.
In September 1792, France became a republic. The following year, King Louis the XVI was executed. The French Senate was founded in 1799 and, in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte became the first Emperor of France.
Today, Bastille Day is commemorated with military parades in Paris and many garrison towns. Flags of red, white and blue fly everywhere, but especially on the Champs-Élysées in Paris where the large Bastille Day Military Parade is filled with cadet, infantry, motorized and mounted troops. They march from l’Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Allied troops also march in the parade. The sky is busy with airforce aerobatic displays and, after dark, fireworks.
The social charm of Bastille day is the summer weather and opportunity for family gatherings outdoors. If you could peek into one of their picnic baskets, it might contain Champagne, strawberries, a baguette or two, cheeses, smoked chicken, escargot, tarts, pastries and perhaps a bowl of Bastille Day fruit salad.
Some restaurants have special Bastille Day menus. They hold games including pétanque, a ball game like bocce, and have can-can dancers to add to the festivities. There are even cookie decorating opportunities for children visiting some restaurants.