France’s National Day

14th of July is the France’s National Day. It is officially called the “Fête de la Féderation” or in English speaking countries “Bastille Day”. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison – a symbol at the time of royal autocracy in the center of Paris – by the revolutionaries in the morning of July 14th 1789.
Each year the Bastille falling is celebrated with great pomp throughout France.
The military parade on the Champs-Elysée in Paris in front of the president of the French Republic is the oldest and largest parade in Europe. Arguably its most curios part is the last one: the parade of the French Foreign Legion. Featuring white caps, yellow aprons and holding on their shoulders axes, the legionnaires are the last to parade due to their slow pace: 88 steps per minute against 120 other units and 140 for the Alpine Corps.

French Foreign Legion Parade
French Foreign Legion Parade

There are also reviews of the troops and decorations ceremonies in all the major cities of the country.

What is less known (outside France) about the 14th of July celebrations is the tradition of firefighters balls held on the evening of 13th of July (or on 14th of July or even on both evenings) in fire stations across the country. The custom of this ball that is now a big popular party started in 1937 in Montmartre, Paris. While it was before a party for the firefighters and their families, in 1937 some passersby knocked at the door of Montmartre fire station and were invited to the celebration. It all started there….

French Firefighters Ball
Firefighters Ball

Of course the 14th of July ends with firework shows in all the cities (the biggest in the south west of France is the Carcassonne one!). The smaller towns have fireworks shows on the 13th of July to allow people to participate the next day to the big city shows.

Below: Jean Jaurès Square in Bordeaux: Everybody is waiting for the fireworks at the end of National Day celebrations.

Below: fireworks in Bordeaux at the end of July 14, 2013 Bastille Day celebrations.

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