Celebrating Bastille Day Like a Local in France

Watching fireworks in France for Bastille Day.

Greenheart Traveler, Haze Johnson, got to celebrate Bastille Day while attending French lessons through our Teen Summer Language Camp program in France. In this blog post, Haze eloquently details the events of the national holiday, and touches on what is perhaps the most important element of traveling to another country. Read on to find out!

Some History Behind Bastille Day

As anyone who has ever met a French person should know; they are quite proud of their history. France budded as a monarchy, truly blossoming with the reign of King Louis XVI just before the famed “French Revolution”. Since then, France has maintained a French Republic, and every summer the country joins together to celebrate what is known as “Bastille Day”; one of the most memorable turning points during the revolution.

Bastille Day, also referred to as la Fête nationale, is the national celebration of the fourteenth of July in which thousands of Parisian citizens stormed into the prison of Bastille in order to release the seven captive convicts. It was a ground-breaking feat in the act of war for the French, and has been held a triumphing victory ever since.

Fireworks for Bastille Day being celebrated in France.

Fireworks for Bastille Day being celebrated in France.

Each year it is celebrated with astonishing fireworks, boisterous public balls, thundering concerts, and prideful military parades. Once the sun retreats behind the horizon and the moon is lured into its spotlight, the real party begins. Crowds gather in front of the Eiffel Tower, chattering in anticipation.

They anxiously wait as un animateur riles them up before the city of Paris is illuminated by variously colored fireworks. The clouds are luminous as the sparks trickle down into the roaring city, the tower donning a myriad of colors (with projected special effects, of course). It truly is a sight to behold.

Unfortunately, I was not present to do so.

Celebrating Bastille Day in France with gelato.

Chynna Heu, Angelique Ayodé, and I celebrating our final night together with gelato before the firework show.

Experiencing Bastille Day as Parisians Do

No, I was nestled on the dewy grass next to my best friends atop the highest hill in Bondoufle, my resident town en Provence, towering over the rest as the most magnificent viewpoint. Alright, truth be told – it might’ve been the tallest hill behind my condo, barely reaching a few meters at the most, but that doesn’t matter. We had the best spots away from the few dozen people that make an appearance at the little lake where the show was to be displayed. It was quaint, homey, and inviting.

It was also July 13th.

Yes, it’s true: many Frenchmen and women celebrate their day of victory the night prior to the specific engagement. It makes sense, no doubt; less of a fuss, easier to navigate, and you won’t have to worry about crazy drunk Parisians throwing up in your lawn.

Except you do.

Because everyone decides to celebrate a day early, which can only mean it’s just as terrible. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

A group photo in front of the Sacre Coeur in Paris, France.

A group photo in front of the Sacre Coeur on the 13th before we celebrated Bastille Day early.

Wherever or whenever you celebrate the holiday, it’s always good to have a few friends to sit out on the lawn with the crackling light-shows in the distance, non? You get to hear hearty conversations buzzing about alongside the joyous cackling from the street ball just a ways down your road.

Just feeling the radiant and harmonious camaraderie by being around elated people is enough to make your cheeks hurt, especially after a little child darts past with a bouquet of rainbow glow-sticks in hand. 

Greenheart Traveler, Angelique, in front of some stained glass in Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland in France.

Angelique in front of some stained glass in Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland in France.

On the actual day of Bastille, I was in Disneyland with my group. It was our last day as a coterie, and, as we would soon learn; the worst. Everyone was at the theme park – it was a national holiday after all. What sort of planning was that?! Even our local organizer had her complaints. Albeit our setbacks, my friends and I had fun nonetheless. I think I rode one specific Star Wars ride three or four times? In a row? Perhaps more, perhaps less, I was too full of gelato to care. The famed Disney parade (and park, to be honest) was slyly themed for the attractive date.

Diplomas for graduating from a teen summer language course in France.

Our graduation diplomas (before Chynna’s was crushed in a group hug)!

Bidding Adieu to Forever Friends

At the end of the day, upon arrival to our designated meeting spot in between our towns, my newfound friends crushed each other in a tear-jerking (and diploma-crushing, sorry Chynna) group-hug. Just as we pulled away, wet eyes masked in the darkness of an abandoned parking lot, could we hear the distant booming of the fireworks.

Peeking over the cracked old cluster of buildings was the flare of a journey I realized was impossible to forget. With the reflecting gleam of blue, white, and red in my eye was also the burst of color I never knew I would cling to so childishly for the rest of eternity.

And that I will.


About the Author:

Ever since Haze Johnson was young she has loved art, particularly traditional and digital drawing and photography. Follow Haze on her adventures in France during her teen summer language camp.

Can you picture yourself celebrating Bastille Day in France?

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