Many people attend large-scale public celebrations. These often include:
- Military and civilian parades.
- Musical performances.
- Communal meals.
- Spectacular fireworks displays.
There is a large military parade in Paris in the morning of July 14. Service men and women from various units, including cadets from military schools, the French Navy and the French Foreign Legion, participate in the parade. The parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade. Military aircraft fly over the parade route during the parade. The French president opens the parade and reviews the troops and thousands of people line the route. Other people spend the day quietly and eat a celebratory meal or picnic with family and close friends.
Bastille Day is a public holiday in France so post offices, banks, and many businesses are closed. Restaurants and cafes outside of tourist areas may also be closed. However, bakeries and some stores in Paris, as well as at airports and railway stations and along major highways, are open.
Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. Roads in the centers of villages, towns and cities (particularly in Paris) may be closed for parades and other large public events.
The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. Many people in France associated it with the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy in the late 1700s. On July 14, 1789, troops stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event at the beginning of the French Revolution. Fête de la Fédérationwas held on July 14, 1790. This was a way to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France.
Official celebrations were held in Paris on June 30, 1878, to honor the Republic of France. On July 14, 1879, more official celebrations were held. These included a military review in Longchamp near Paris and celebrations all over the country. A politician named Benjamin Raspail proposed that July 14 should become a holiday in France in 1880. The law was enacted on July 6, 1880. Bastille Day was a public holiday for the first time on July 14, 1880.
The military parade in Paris has been held every year since 1880, except during World War II. The Free French Forces paraded on this date in London, England from 1940 until 1944. Jean Michel Jarre held a concert in Paris that attracted one million people, then the largest recorded crowd at an outdoor concert, in 1979. Special celebrations were held for the 200th anniversary of the French revolution in 1989. The French football team became world champions on July 12, 1998. This sparked celebrations throughout France on Bastille Day.
Bastille Day celebrations are held in French communities and the Institut de France around the world. Such events in the United States are held in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. There are festivals of French culture in Franschhoek, South Africa, and Hungary.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the French national flag, or tricolor, are important symbols of Bastille Day. The French national flag is one-and-a-half times as wide as it is tall. It consists of three vertical bands of equal width colored blue, white and red. The same colors are displayed in bunting and banners of many shapes on Bastille Day. People may also wear clothing or face paint in these colors.