National French celebration
The 14th of July is the day of the national French celebration. Established in 1880, this date commemorates both the storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789, which ended absolute rule, and the Festival of the Federation of the 14th July 1790.
The Bastille, or to be exact, Bastille Saint-Antoine, was both a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of the Old Regime of Louis XVI. On the 14th July 1789, rioters launched an attack on the fortress. Even though there were only seven prisoners inside, this is recorded as the first large-scale intervention by the French people. From then on, the King’s power was no longer absolute. This event is considered to be the symbol of the battle against oppression for all French citizens. The three ideas of the Republic represented on the tricoloured flag all became meaningful : Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood.
Celebrations in France
Today, celebrations for the national festival are held all over France. The oldest and largest military parade in Europe takes place on the morning of the 14th July on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, in front of the President of the Republic, French senior officials and foreign guests. The procession is made up of military units either on foot, motorised, or in the air, and sometimes invites troops of foreign forces to parade beside the French armies.
Every 14th July, there are also the famous Firemen’s Balls. This tradition goes back to 1937, when the fire brigade of Montmartre opened its station doors to a small curious group of local people. There, the fire men hosted a lively evening with a gymnastics demonstration and small fireworks. Following the citizens joy, this idea became popular in all the other fire stations. Since then, this festival is an essential part of the day.
Numerous fireworks are let off in all cities, either on the 13th or 14th of July. The most famous display is in Paris, where thousands of people gather around the Champ-de-Mars, on the Seine, on a balcony or even on the 1st or 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. The fireworks are usually launched from the Trocadéro’s ponds and they provide an impressive pyrotechnic show lasting about 35 minutes. It is advised to go to the opposite bank to admire the fireworks.
We have numerous offers for special 14th July cruises to give you a front row seat for the fireworks.