It’s 14th July and, more than usual, there is a bit of a buzz in the Gulf of St Tropez. The Bastille Day celebrations have been taken place throughout the weekend and will continue in to the evening, concluding as usual, with spectacular firework displays. Chris and I are going to try to watch the fireworks at both St Tropez and St Maxime simultaneously, by positioning ourselves on the beach at Port Grimaud. We will definitely be getting there early, as I doubt we will be the only people to have this idea. We have celebrated Bastille Day together every year for the last four years, but what exactly is Bastille Day and why is it so important in France?
In France, Bastille Day is actually referred to as “Le Fête Nationale” or “Le Quatorze Juillet”, simply meaning the 14th of July. It is a day of National celebration and marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which was a turning point in the French Revolution. At this time, King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were the reigning monarchs of France. The situation leading up to the Revolution was incredibly complex and had been building for many years, but was caused in part by the fact that France was on the verge of bankruptcy and the monarchy were living a life of frivolity and excess. The Bastille was used as a prison at the time and the storming of the Bastille was symbolic of the fight against the oppression of the French people and the absolute power of the monarchy. France became a Republic in 1792 and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were charged with treason and beheaded in 1793.
In 1880 it became law that 14th July would be a national holiday in France. Celebrations have been held every year to remember those who fought for freedom and to celebrate the birth of the Republic.
The motto of the French Revolution was “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” which translates as Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. This is the National motto of France and is inscribed on many public buildings throughout the country. There may be some concerns that this motto has lost it’s meaning in recent years, particularly with the recent Gilets Jaunes protests about economic equality and the recent terrorist attacks in France, but I feel that these values are now more relevant than ever. My personal, modern day interpretation of “Fraternité” is “Community” and I believe that the values of unification, love, understanding and support are needed more than ever.
So today, enjoy the celebrations of a country that is, quite rightly, proud of it’s unique history, values and identity. Find a firework display near your (there will be plenty to choose from), raise a glass and have a très bonne Fête Nationale.
Thank you for reading,