Hi! I asked the question above because not a lot of people know the importance of this date to the French. You might say, it’s your friend Bola’s birthday or Wale’s birthday or you might even go further to guess it’s Macron’s birthday. FYI, you are so wrong.
This day is important to the French because it’s the day they celebrate their national holiday called La fete national/ Le 14 Juillet or Bastille Day.
To better understand the importance of this day and its significance to French people, let’s delve into the annals of history shall we?
During the ancien regime- ancient regime, a period the French were ruled by monarchs, there was a finance minister named Jacques Neckar, he was known for his reforming policies that favoured the third estate- otherwise known as the peasants.
Sadly, on the 11th of July he was dismissed. When Parisians learnt of his dismissal, fearful and angry that those who stood for them would be attacked by the royal army or mercenaries in the king’s service, they stormed the Bastille (a fortress/ prison in Paris).
The Bastille was famous for holding political prisoners whose writings had infuriated the monarchy, others were simply imprisoned for no legal reason, except of course, on the basis of “Lettres de cachet’’- signet letters. They were arbitrary royal indictments that could not be appealed and did not indicate the reason for imprisonment.
Crazy right!! I know. – so you are busy buying boli (roasted plantain) on the roadside and then a group of royal guards arrest you, their only defence being some phony letter and then bam! You find yourself in a fortress held captive!!! Let’s just be thankful we live in this century.
That was to show how extreme the monarchy was in displaying power. Absolutism it is called.
So, anyways, back to the story.
The Bastille held a cache-(a group of things that have been hidden in a secret place because they are illegal or stolen) of aluminum and gun powder. The people decided to arm themselves with those ammos- ammunition.
This very important event, marked the entry into the French revolution. The significance being that power could be held not only by god or the king but also by ordinary citizens.
Shortly after the ‘Prise de la bastille’/ Storming of the Bastille, the following month, specifically in the late evening of the 4th of august, feudalism was abolished by the Assemblée Constituante and on the 26th of august, La Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (declaration of the rights of man and the citizen) was proclaimed.
Note: Homme with a capital H is human, which means it’s genderless while home with a small h means man)
The fête de la federation which was marked on the 14th of July 1790 was to celebrate the unity of the French nation during the revolution and also to celebrate peace.
On the 21st of May 1880, a law was proposed to have the 14th of July as a yearly national holiday, it was given a go ahead by the assembly and approved by the senate on the 27th and 29th of June. The law was made official on the 6th of July 1880.
Get this! The ministry of interior recommended to the prefects that the day should in in fact be celebrated ‘’with all the brilliance that local resources allow’’ which means to me, it should always be a grand celebration.
How’s that for history 101!
Now that we have established the background of the day, we can talk about how it is celebrated in modern times.
the best way to experience the 14th of July celebrations is to go to Paris, not that other regions don’t celebrate it, it is just much grander in ‘the city of light’, more precisely, the Champs Elysees.
It’s a spectacle! With military parades, fireworks and public speeches. People wear clothes in blue, white and red, “Tricolore’’ as it is called in French (they are also the colours of the French flag), and sing joyously the French national anthem- La Marseillaise.
Another popular custom on Bastille Day in France is going for picnics in a public park- which are oh so many! , enjoying French food and wine, and basically just spending quality time with family and friends.
Ohh, also people get to watch fireworks from the place de la Concorde.
A bit of history is also in the works here in Nigeria, as the Ekiti governorship elections are under way. In just a few hours we will know who emerges as the governor of the state. Would providence offer Fayemi a second chance at governing or will Fayose’s prodigy Kolapo Olusola win?
How will you celebrate your 14th of July? I know how I’ll celebrate mine… writing.