Bastille Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July, is the national holiday of France. It commemorates an event that many believe launched the French Revolution: an angry mob freeing of the political prisoners held in the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789.
The Bastille prison had been a hated symbol of royal oppression in France for centuries, as it was the location that political prisoners were held without trial or any appeal. 1789 was a tumultuous year for the French monarchy which was extremely unpopular. In July, the population of Paris began to fear attack from the military. In response, they stormed the Bastille freeing seven prisoners and seizing gunpowder and ammunition. The event had more symbolic than political significance, however. In August of 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man was proclaimed and the French Revolution began in earnest.
Incidentally, the Bastille prison no longer stands, but a avant-garde opera house stands in the spot where the prison was once located. The Bastille neighborhood is a trendy area of Paris.
In France, all units of government and many businesses are closed on Bastille Day, which the French call le quatorze juillet. A large parade of military might takes place on the Champs Elysees around the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. This is a very popular event and the President of the French Republic always views the parade. There is a famous Monet painting of the parade showing the streets bedecked with the tricolor French flag. Paris and many other French cities also mark the day with fireworks displays in the evening. Many Francophiles in other countries mark the holiday as well.
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