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Parallel text: Bastille Day

PUBLISHED: 17:03 14 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:03 14 July 2014

© Rosie Brooks

© Rosie Brooks

Archant

The history of France’s most important festival - le 14 juillet - is explored by Peter Stewart

Les Français, qui bénéficient de 11 jours fériés par an, savent faire la fête. Et qui pourrait le leur reprocher? Mais c’est qu’en été que les Français se déchaînent vraiment lors de leur plus grande célébration nationale de l’année: le 14 juillet.

Les origines de cette célébration iconique française remontent à deux événements importants du 18ème siècle: la prise de la Bastille et la Fête de la Fédération. Initialement construite comme une forteresse médiévale, la Bastille est utilisée comme une prison d’État pour héberger de nombreux prisonniers politiques dont le travail déplaisait le roi Louis XVI. La forteresse devient vite un symbole du régime absolutiste du roi et, le 14 juillet 1789, elle est capturée par une foule en colère, une démarche qui déclenchera la Révolution française.

Un an plus tard, en 1790, les célébrations ont lieu pour commémorer la prise de la Bastille et les notions de liberté et d’unité que la nouvelle monarchie constitutionnelle a engendrées. Ce n’est cependant qu’en 1880 que les célébrations modernes commencent vraiment lors du projet de loi annoncé par le politicien français Benjamin Raspail pour que le 14 Juillet soit reconnu comme un jour férié.

Aujourd’hui, la plupart des villes et villages dans toute la France organisent un nombre impressionnant de célébrations. L’un des plus anciens événements est le défilé militaire à Paris qui remonte à 1880. La parade commence près de l’Arc de Triomphe et peu à peu avance dans toute la ville. Les festivités se poursuivent par une visite militaire dans une banlieue parisienne particulière où la population accueille des soldats et discute avec eux de leur métier.

Aucune fête du 14 juillet ne serait complète sans des feux d’artifice; le ciel de Carcassonne est illuminé par l’un des plus grands feux d’artifice de l’Hexagone, qui crée un kaléidoscope de couleurs au¬dessus des magnifiques remparts.

La ville d’Annecy, par ailleurs, propose de multiples célébrations le long du lac avec des concerts et des animations de rues qui culminent en un superbe bal avec danseurs en costume d’époque. D’un point de vue d’originalité Lyon n’a pas d’égal; des pompiers locaux organisent tous les événements allant de bals de pompiers à une boite de nuit installée dans une des casernes où l’on peut danser pieds nus sur une plage de sable pendant toute la nuit.

La fête nationale est célébrée aujourd’hui dans de nombreuses villes à travers le monde. Donc, où que vous soyez le 14 juillet, profitez bien de la plus grande fête française. Vive la France!

The French, who enjoy 11 public holidays a year, know how to party. And who could blame them? But it’s not until the summer that the French really go wild, when it’s the nation’s biggest holiday of the year: the Fête Nationale.

The origins of this iconic French celebration date back to two important 18th¬century events: the storming of the Bastille and the Fête de la Fédération. Originally built as a medieval fortress, the Bastille was used as a state prison to house numerous political prisoners whose work displeased King Louis XVI. The fortress quickly became a symbol of the king’s absolutist regime and, on 14 July 1789, was captured by an angry mob, a move which triggered the French Revolution. One year later, in 1790, celebrations were held to mark the fall of the Bastille and the notions of freedom and unity that the new constitutional monarchy had brought with it. However, it was not until 1880 that the modern¬day celebrations really got under way after French politician Benjamin Raspail proposed a law for 14 July to be recognised as an official holiday.

Today the majority of towns and villages throughout France play host to an impressive array of celebrations. One of the oldest is the military parade held in Paris which dates from 1880. The parade begins near the Arc de Triomphe and spreads throughout the city. The festIvities continue afterwards in the form of a military visit to a particular Paris suburb where local people greet soldiers and talk to them about their profession.

No 14 July celebration is complete without fireworks; the sky in Carcassonne is illuminated by one of the nation’s biggest displays, with fireworks creating a kaleidoscope of colour above the beautiful ramparts. Annecy, meanwhile, organises a host of celebrations along its lakeside promenade with live concerts and street activities topped off by a magnificent ball with dancers in period costume. However, Lyon is the winner as far as originality goes; local firemen organise all the events, which range from a firemen’s ball to a fire station nightclub complete with sandy beach for dancing barefoot all night long.

The French national holiday is today celebrated in cities around the world. So, wherever you are on 14 July, make the most of the greatest of French holidays. Long live France!

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