Every year on July 14, Bastille Day, or la Fête nationale (French National Day), commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a watershed moment in the French Revolution in 1789. The following year, Bastille Day celebrations were held, and about a century later, it became a national holiday celebrated with massive fireworks displays and a military parade through the streets of Paris. Even if you are far from France on July 14, you can still hold your own le quatorze juillet celebration to commemorate this historic day.
Method 1 Throwing a Bastille Day Party at Home
1. Follow French tradition and go on a picnic. Many French people prefer low-key Bastille Day celebrations, spending their day off with friends and family and enjoying the warm weather. Invite friends and family over after work for a relaxed celebration at your own home, and host a backyard picnic or barbeque with French foods and decorations.
For a more traditional picnic, you can set up tables or lay out blankets on the ground.
Invite guests to dress up in their best “French” attire, whether it’s a beret and striped shirt or old-fashioned suits and Marie Antoinette-inspired dresses, to put a costume-party spin on this tradition.
2. Decorate with items in the Tricolor and French themes. Hang French flags in your yard and eat with blue, white, and red tablecloths, plates, and silverware. You can also display other French-inspired decorations, such as berets and miniature Eiffel Towers, which can be purchased online or at a party store.
You can go all out with your decorations or keep it simple to keep with the understated tradition of these parties.
3. With fresh baguettes, make ratatouille, crepes, and Parisian sandwiches. The food is the most important aspect of any Bastille Day celebration. Serve with a side of cole ratatouille, or vegetable stew, for a simple, satisfying sandwich made with fresh French bread, ham, creamy butter, and seasonal vegetables. Serve savoury crepes on your guests’ plates.
Ratatouille can be made with vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and red pepper. For a simple recipe, look online or in a French cookbook.
To make your own crepes, combine an egg, milk, butter, flour, and parsley in a mixing bowl and cook in a flat, thin crepe pan. Then, assemble a filling of savoury ingredients such as ham, smoked salmon, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and Gruyere cheese.
4. Delicious French pastries will satisfy your sweet tooth. Sweet pastries like éclairs and macarons are ideal for finishing off your French picnic; you can make them yourself or purchase them from a local bakery. For even more tasty, sugary options, bake or buy sweet crepes or even creme brulee.
Serve a simple cake or a batch of cupcakes frosted to look like a French flag for a more low-key dessert option.
5. Drink French wine or freshly squeezed lemonade. Serve chilled champagne or light French wines like Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio as an aperitif. Offer citron pressé or make-your-own lemonade as a non-alcoholic option: set out lemon juice, water, sugar, and ice for each guest to make their drink as tart or sweet as they like.
Citron pressé is traditionally served in French cafes, where waiters squeeze a lemon into the glass and let the customer add water and sugar cubes to taste.
6. For some light entertainment, try your hand at French trivia. Look up interesting facts about France on the internet and make your own French trivia game to play with your guests. Divide into teams or play individually, and the winner will receive a bottle of French wine or a special dessert.
Mix simple questions like “When was the French Revolution?” with more difficult ones like “How many people live in Paris?”
7. Watch a French film. Finish your laid-back Bastille Day celebrations by watching a classic French film or two. Look for anything starring classic French actors like Catherine Deneuve or Gérard Depardieu, or go for more contemporary options. “Amour,” “Amelie,” or “The Artist.”
You could also see a film adaptation of a French novel, such as the 2014 adaptation of “Madame Bovary.”
8. Stream Paris’ Bastille Day parade, concert, and fireworks. Major news organisations broadcast live coverage of the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, including the morning military parade and the nighttime fireworks display. Look for a live stream online and make sure to account for your time zone so you can enjoy the festivities in real time.
9. See if there are any Bastille Day celebrations in your area. Check your local news for larger Bastille Day celebrations if you live near a large city, especially one with a large French or international presence. Many cities hold smaller parades, festivals, or parties to commemorate La Fête Nationale, which is celebrated by French people and Francophiles all over the world.
In the United States, check out the festivities in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, and Milwaukee.
Many major European cities, including London and Prague, host celebrations.
Other well-known Bastille Day celebrations are held in Sydney, Australia, Cape Town, South Africa, and Pondicherry, India.
Method 2 Celebrating in France
1. Travel to Paris to take part in the most famous celebration. It comes as no surprise that Paris is the focal point for Bastille Day celebrations in France and around the world. On July 14th, if you can make it to the City of Lights, you’ll be treated to a military parade, a massive fireworks display, concerts, parties, and more.
Make sure to book your flights and accommodations well in advance, as hotels in and around Paris fill up quickly before the holiday.
2. In the morning, watch the military parade down the Champs Elysées. Almost every Bastille Day since 1880 has been marked by a traditional military parade from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. For spectators to enjoy, there are marching bands, floats, and an aerial show with acrobatic planes and helicopters.
The parade begins at 10 a.m., and the route fills up quickly, so get a good spot early to ensure a good view.
The march is led by the French President, and the Prime Minister is always present, often accompanied by other foreign dignitaries.
3. At night, enjoy a spectacular fireworks display. The Champ de Mars, the gardens between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire, is where Paris’ famous Bastille Day fireworks are held. If you intend to watch from a seat on the crowded Champ de Mars, get there early. You can also get great views from higher ground, such as a tower or rooftop, or from many of the Seine bridges.
The fireworks usually begin around 11 p.m., but if you want to get the best seats on the Champ de Mars, try to arrive in the afternoon. While you wait for the show, have a picnic dinner with your friends.
Before the fireworks, there is usually a concert that begins around 9 p.m.
4. To celebrate late, go to a club or a Firemen’s Ball. Firemen’s Balls, a Bastille Day tradition, are held by fire departments throughout the city and suburbs, who open their doors to the public for music and dancing. Bring cash—some stations charge admission fees, but most simply ask for donations to improve working conditions for their employees.
See https://www.sortiraparis.com/soiree/guides/53978-bals-des-pompiers-2018-a-paris-et-en-ile-de-france for a complete list of Firemen’s Balls.
If you can’t make it to a Firemen’s Ball, clubs and bars throughout Paris frequently hold celebrations.
5. Look for one-of-a-kind celebrations in cities throughout France. If you’re planning a holiday trip to France but want to avoid the crowded capital, look for more intimate and one-of-a-kind celebrations in other French towns and cities. The day almost always concludes with a fireworks display and partying, as it does in Paris. Some places to visit include Versailles, where the monarchy’s overthrow is celebrated in kingly fashion with a massive fireworks display over the castle’s beautiful gardens.
Deauville is an upscale beach town that celebrates with stylish pool and beach parties.
Carcassonne, a mediaeval walled city in southwest France, celebrates with free admission to theatres and musical performances, as well as a massive fireworks display. On July 14, the city gets crowded, so get there early for good seats to the show!
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