La Fête Nationale
The National Day of France
History & Celebrations

La Fête Nationale
The National Day of France
History & Celebrations

2 minute read

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! Celebrating the National Day of France

232 years of La Fête Nationale celebrations

Why do the French celebrate July 14?

La Fête Nationale, The National Day of France, commemorates the storming of the Bastille and the Fête de la Fédération. The Bastille was a 14th-century medieval fortress that became a state prison. The king, Louis XVI, would imprison any opponents that spoke against the crown. On July 14, 1789, the revolutionaries of Paris stormed the Bastille to free their comrades and prisoners and retrieve weapons for the revolution.

The fall of Bastille followed only two days after the people of Paris declared the launch of the French Revolution. July 14 is regarded as the birth of the French Republic, as the day commemorates both the fall of the Bastille and the first anniversary of the event. The Fête de la Fédération, Feast of the Federation, was held on July 14, 1790. The event was in Paris, and representatives across the regions of France declared themselves as one national community, establishing the constitutional monarchy in France.

La Fête Nationale is also known as La quatorze Juillet and Bastille Day

While the holiday is a celebration of the storming of the Bastille, "Bastille Day" is an English term for "French National Day." In France, it's formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration). Most of the time, though, the French refer to the day as La quatorze Juillet (July 14). It's similar to how Americans call July 4 Independence Day or the Fourth of July. In the same way, the French tend not to use the phrase "Happy Bastille Day," just as Americans probably wouldn't say, "Happy Day the Declaration of Independence was signed!"

Bastille Day Celebrations in Paris

In the morning, Parisians celebrate the holiday with a grand military parade known as 'Le Défilé' (the parade). It's the oldest and largest military parade in Europe. The procession moves down the Champs-Élysées and marches in front of the French president and assembled guests.

Throughout the day, people celebrate with family, hold parties, attend dances, and prepare for the evening's fireworks. 

Every year, the fireworks display in Paris is eagerly awaited. For 30 minutes, the Eiffel Tower becomes a glittering and dazzling display of light. For the past several years, there's been a large symphonic concert held at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. People gather on the Champ-de-Mars, in surrounding parks, or even atop famous monuments to admire the spectacle. 

If you happen to be in France on July 14, you're in for the biggest celebration of the summer!

Bastille Day is the National Day of France and commemorates the fall of the Bastille fortress and the monarchy a year later.