a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastille_Day” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Bastille Day is a French national holiday celebrated on July 14 each year. It was established in 1880 and commemorates two things at once—the storming of the Bastille that took place on the 14th of July 1789 (the most common cause of celebration), and the Festival of the Federation that took place on the 14th of July 1790 (the less well-known cause).
What makes this holiday so special for French people? The storming of the Bastille is one of the most symbolic and important moments of the French Revolution that eventually ended absolute rule in the country.
The Bastille was built in the 1300s during the Hundred Years’ War. Initially, it was a fortress designed to protect Paris’ eastern entrance. The Bastille’s defences were massive: its stone walls stood 100 feet high, it had a wide moat that went around the whole fortress, and an impressive number of watchful guards. Over 80 regular soldiers along with 30 Swiss mercenaries guarded the Bastille during that time.
The original name of the fortress was the Chastel Sainte-Antoine. However, by the time its construction was complete, it became known as the Bastide (this is the old French name for a fortress). Over time, the name changed again: the Bastide became the Bastille.
Initially, the Bastille was used as a fortress. Back then, it was also a castle and a home to the royal treasure. However, in the 17th century, things changed. During the reign of King Louis XIII, the fortress became the prison for upper-class people who committed some kind of high treason or were considered enemies to the king.
It was then that the Bastille stopped being viewed as a mere building, and became one of the dark symbols of monarchy. That’s why the storming of the Bastille was (and still remains) so meaningful and important for French people: it was the act that symbolised that the monarchy had fallen.
THE HISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY
The Bastille was stormed by nearly 1,000 people. Most of them were store owners and craftsmen living in Paris, some of them were members of the Third Estate—the French social class who had recently made demands to the king to let the commoners have more of a say in government.
The Third Estate was worried that the king was preparing the army for an attack, so they decided to act first. They took over the Hotel des Invalides and managed to get muskets there, but they still didn’t have gunpowder.
That’s when the decision to storm the Bastille was made. According to the rumours, a large number of political prisoners were held there. Furthermore, the prison also had weaponry stores where the revolutionaries could find gunpowder.
They approached the Bastille on the morning of July 14, demanding Governor de Launay, who was the military leader of the prison, to surrender it and to hand over the gunpowder to them. However, he refused and the negotiations started.
As they went on, the crowd became more and more agitated. They got into the courtyard in the early afternoon and tried to break into the prison. The soldiers started firing into the crowd, and so the fighting began. However, later at some point, the soldiers began to join the revolutionaries, and so de Launay had no other choice but to surrender the fortress.
Ironically, there were only seven prisoners held in the Bastille at that time. However, this didn’t make the storming any less meaningful: it was the first large-scale intervention made by the French people. Once the Bastille was taken over, the king’s power stopped being absolute. Therefore, this day and this event, in particular, are considered to be the symbol of the battle against the oppression of all French citizens.
HOW IS BASTILLE DAY CELEBRATED?
Bastille Day is celebrated all over France these days. However, the biggest celebration is held in Paris and starts with the largest and the oldest military parade in Europe. The parade starts in the morning on the 14th July on the Champs-Élysées; it is comprised of French military units and sometimes troops of foreign forces parading down the avenue.
Bastille Day is also celebrated with fireworks, which are set off in all cities on the 13th or 14th of July. Of course, the biggest and most extraordinary display also takes place in Paris. Thousands of locals and tourists gather around the Champ de Mars; some look at the fireworks from the balconies, and some do so from the Eiffel Tower. The pyrotechnic show lasts about 35 minutes.
HOW CAN BASTILLE DAY HELP YOUR BUSINESS?
If you run a travel company or some kind of local tourist business, the answer is obvious: you could organise tours and events related to Bastille Day. However, even if your company isn’t travel-related, you can still use this opportunity to boost sales and grow your business.
Of course, Bastille Day isn’t celebrated by all small businesses and shops—but it’s a national holiday nevertheless. By launching some event dedicated to it, your company will be able to stand out among others, building better relationships with existing clients and attracting new ones with the help of discounts and special deals. Therefore, if you have the desire and opportunity to launch a certain event dedicated to this day, consider doing so—and see for yourself how it could benefit your business.