Thursday, July 12, 2012
Bastille Day, the French national holiday celebrated on July 14th each year, celebrates the storming of ‘La Bastille’ prison by French peasants in 1789 and therefore the start of the French revolution.
While most people think the holiday commemorates just the storming of the Bastille, it actually also commemorates the Fête de la Fédération held on July 14, 1790 to celebrate its first anniversary. A huge national party, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the new post-revolution French state, and has come to be seen as a symbol of the birth of the nation of France.
The Bastille was a prison where people had been unfairly jailed by the King and famous for holding political prisoners and those whose writings displeased Louis 16th. Thus the Bastille had become a symbol of the unfair repression of the monarchy.
Somewhat ironically, in actuality there were only 7 inmates housed in the Bastille when it was stormed. Truth be told, the storming of the Bastille was more important as a symbolic act of rebellion than a practical act of defiance. Although it was certainly an important moment in the French Revolution and the history of France, the typical image of courageous French patriots storming the Bastille and freeing hundreds of oppressed peasants is not quite historically accurate.
Still, the whole day, its history and now the large national party that it has become, is extremely important to the people of France with fireworks being the highlight in most French towns.
To us this year it is equally as important as it will be the first ‘Bastille Day’ that we have spent in St Malo and therefore marks our own revolution and the rebirth of our life here in France.
Vive la France and Bonne quatorze Juillet!