14 things you might not know about Bastille Day

PUBLISHED: 14:39 23 June 2021 | UPDATED: 14:51 23 June 2021

A big part of Bastille Day is the Paris military parade. Pic: encrier/Getty

A big part of Bastille Day is the Paris military parade. Pic: encrier/Getty

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The Fête Nationale is a staple of the French calendar

14 July has been an incontournable event in the French calendar since 1880, when the Loi Raspail decreed it a national holiday. This year coronavirus may put a dampener on the various events that celebrate this special day, but there’s still plenty to celebrate. Here are 14 things you might not know about the Fête Nationale...

1) The small town of Viriat in Ain is the only French commune not to celebrate Bastille Day on 14 July. Instead, they mark the special day two weeks later, on 1 August, in a tradition founded so the celebrations wouldn’t interrupt the harvest.

2) Liège in Belgium has its own Bastille Day due to its longstanding connections with its French neighbours. The celebrations here are even bigger than those for Belgium’s own national day!

3) The very first Firemen’s Ball (traditional Bastille Day party) was held in Paris in 1937, according to research by Libération.

Soldiers in the Bastille Day parade. Pic: mmeee/GettySoldiers in the Bastille Day parade. Pic: mmeee/Getty

4) 14 July marks the feast day for Saint Camille de Lellis, so it’s a day of double celebrations.

5) 2021’s Bastille Day military parade in Paris was a toned-down ceremony due to the coronavirus outbreak and fittingly dedicated to nurses, doctors and caregivers.

6) In 1971, women joined the Bastille Day military parade in Paris for the first time.

7) A French military band went viral after performing a brass rendition of recently separated music duo Daft Punk’s Get Lucky during the 2017 parade.

The Patrouille de France aviation display team on Bastille Day. Pic: mmeee/GettyThe Patrouille de France aviation display team on Bastille Day. Pic: mmeee/Getty

8) The Loi Raspail decreed 14 July as a national holiday in France. It was put forward by painter and politician Benjamin Raspail in May 1880 and adopted the following month.

9) At the time, other mooted dates for the French national holiday included 5 May (opening of the estates-general in Versailles) and 4 August (abolition of the feudal system).

10) For Bastille Day in 1942, French military detachments paraded through London instead of Paris due to the city’s Nazi Occupation.

11) The Breton village of Mahalon hosts a Festival de l’Insolite (festival of the unusual) every 14 July. The hilarious fête features competitions like periwinkle spitting, menhir throwing and who can drink a litre of lemon juice in the shortest time. Where can we sign up?

Horses in the Bastille Day parade in Paris. Pic: Guillaume Louyot/GettyHorses in the Bastille Day parade in Paris. Pic: Guillaume Louyot/Getty

12) New Orleans in the US boasts a week of Bastille Day celebrations to mark its rich French connections.

13) Elsewhere in the world, the wine-producing town of Franschhoek in South Africa toasts its French Huguenot heritage with a Bastille Festival with a special focus on food and wine.

14) Each year, units from different countries are invited to take part in the military parade in Paris. Despite the pandemic, 2021’s parade saw personnel from German, Austrian, Greek, Swiss and Dutch military take part.

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