Every summer, July plays host to not only America’s Independence Day, but also France’s, known as Bastille Day, le quatorze juillet (“14 July”) or by its official name of Fête Nationale ("National Celebration"). It commemorates the storming of the infamous Bastille fortress-prison by an angry group of Parisians, symbolizing the end of the corrupt aristocratic monarchy and the uprising of the modern nation.
Celebrations in France begin each year in the morning of July 14 with much pomp and circumstance including a military parade on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in front of President Sarkozy. Around the country, each city and village celebrates with its own traditional twist but most everywhere you will find fireworks displays, champagne, traditional French cuisine, carnivals, live bands, dances, and more champagne. It is also typical that on July 14, a group of French cyclists will daringly attempt to take a stage victory, the peloton’s salute to the Tour’s host country.
A little note about national holidays in France: Since Bastille Day falls on a Thursday this year, the French will enjoy a 4-day weekend! There is a clever expression in French faire le pont (“make a bridge”) applied to situations where a work day is sandwiched between two national holidays or a national holiday and a weekend day. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the word bridge applies to skipping over those inconveniently scheduled work days.
Regardless if you are French or not, why not extend that holiday celebration a few more days? We bet you’ve still got leftover beer, wine, charcoal, plates and napkins left over from the American barbeque. Here are a few tips to celebrate a true French Fête Nationale at home or in your area.
Before planning, however, you need to first choose your social class for the holiday – Revolutionary Peasant versus Wealthy Aristocrat. For you revolutionaries out there, we suggest creating a simple menu around crêpes (sweet, savory, or both; see recipes below). For the rest of you wanna-be royal foodies, make a reservation at your favorite local French restaurant and be spoiled!
Bastille Day Celebrations in Your Area
No matter where you live in the U.S., you will have choices to celebrate the best of France this weekend. Enjoy a poodle parade in San Jose, California, Parisian waiters race in Los Angeles, wine and cheese tasting in New York City, Citroën exhibit in Seattle, live francophone bands in Boston, fun run and block party in Chicago, and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica in Milwalkie (after completing their “Storming of the Bastille” 5K fun run).
In the words of La Marseillaise (French National Anthem): “Allons enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé! (“Arise children of the motherland, Our day of glory has arrived!”)
May you live a little France this weekend.
In Brittany, savory crepes are made with farine de sarrasin (“buckwheat flour”) and are called "galettes", whereas sweet crepes are made with wheat flour and are called "crêpes".