Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (French pronunciation: [la.fɛːt.na.sjɔˈnal] ; The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (French pronunciation: [lə.ka.tɔʁz.ʒɥiˈjɛ] ; the fourteenth of July). While the date is the same as that of the storming of the Bastille, July 14 was instead chosen to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération.
It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.
On 30 June 1878, a feast had been arranged in Paris by official decision to honour the French Republic (the event was commemorated in a painting by Claude Monet). On 14 July 1879, another feast took place, with a semi-official aspect; the events of the day included a reception in the Chamber of Deputies, organised and presided over by Léon Gambetta, a military review in Longchamp, and a Republican Feast in the Pré Catelan. All through France, Le Figaro wrote, “people feasted much to honour the storming of the Bastille”.
On 21 May 1880, Benjamin Raspail proposed a law to have “the Republic choose the 14 July as a yearly national holiday”. The Assembly voted in favour of the proposal on 21 May and 8 June. The Senate approved on it 27 and 29 June, favouring 14 July against 4 August (honouring the end of the feudal system on 4 August 1789). The law was made official on 6 July 1880, and the Ministry of the Interior recommended to Prefects that the day should be “celebrated with all the brilliance that the local resources allow”. Indeed, the celebrations of the new holiday in 1880 were particularly magnificent.
In the debate leading up to the adoption of the holiday, Henri Martin, chairman of the French Senate, addressed that chamber on 29 June 1880:
Do not forget that behind this 14 July, where victory of the new era over the ancien régime was bought by fighting, do not forget that after the day of 14 July 1789, there was the day of 14 July 1790…. This [latter] day cannot be blamed for having shed a drop of blood, for having divided the country. It was the consecration of the unity of France…. If some of you might have scruples against the first 14 July, they certainly hold none against the second. Whatever difference which might part us, something hovers over them, it is the great images of national unity, which we all desire, for which we would all stand, willing to die if necessary.
—Henri Martin, Chairman of the Sénat, 1880