Here’s when Bastille Day falls in 2020 - and why France celebrates it

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 1:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 1:59 pm
What you need to know about Bastille Day and why it's celebrated in France explained (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)
What you need to know about Bastille Day and why it's celebrated in France explained (Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Each year in France, Bastille Day is celebrated, commemorating the turning point of the French Revolution in 1789.

France boasts the oldest and largest military parade in Europe as part of its celebrations, but what exactly is the history of Bastille Day?

This is everything you need to know about Bastille Day, how it’s celebrated and how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has altered those celebrations this year.

When is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day is celebrated on 14 July each year.

In France, the day is formally called Fête nationale (“National Celebration”) and is also commonly known as le 14 juillet.

What is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day celebrates the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, and is a public holiday in France. It is now viewed as a symbol of freedom and democracy as the Storming of the Bastille was a turning point in the French Revolution.

The Bastille was a grand fortress that was infamous for holding political prisoners during the first moments of the French Revolution in Paris. It was viewed by revolutionaries as a symbol of the monarchy’s corruption.

In July of 1789, France was already experiencing a difficult summer - this included things like food shortages, high taxes and the militarisation of Paris. The country was on the verge of an economic crisis.

The King called upon the Estates-General to deliver a new tax plan, which was blocked by the second state. The second state represented nobility.

This then resulted in the third estate, which represented common people, to break away and form the National Assembly, which demanded a written constitution from France.

King Louis later fired finance minister Jacques Necker, of whom the third estate approved of. The consensus was that the King was attempting to block any incoming revolution.

Those fears boiled over on 14 July, when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille to steal ammunition and free the few remaining prisoners that were being held there.

The revolt led King Louis to reinstate Necker, while the leader of the third estate, Jean-Sylvin Bailly, was made the mayor of Paris.

How is Bastille Day celebrated in France?

The day is celebrated in France with the likes of fireworks, parades and parties.

As the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost all major public events across the world, France has adapted its Bastille Day celebrations in 2020, to pay tribute to their heroes of the Covid-19 crisis.

The likes of doctors, nurses, paramedics and supermarket workers are all being honoured on Tuesday 14 July. The celebrations come after President Emmanuel Macron signed off on a €8 billion (£7.7bn) pay rise for medical workers.

The families of medical workers who had passed away treating people with Covid-19 were given seats in the stands to watch the annual military parade in Place de la Concorde in Paris.

There were some changes made to the parade as part of Covid-19 guidelines, with marching band members wearing masks and standing further apart in line with social distancing rules.

The parade, which is usually one of the biggest in Europe, was out of bounds to the public due to the virus, and the march along the Champs Elysee was also scaled with crowds preventing from gathering.

Members of the public can still watch the firework display at the Eiffel Tower on TV, and they’ll also be able to see fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe, leaving behind a trail of red, white and blue.