By Laura Rancie.
Read on to learn more about the tradition behind this event, how it’s linked to Bastille Day and where to celebrate in your local Aussie city.
Bastille Day, also known as French National Day, La Fête Nationale, or le 14 Juillet is a national holiday in France celebrated on July 14 each year. It commemorates the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789, and marked a significant turning point in the French Revolution which led to the end of the absolute monarchy and the beginning of the Republic.
So what is the Bastille?
The Bastille was a Medieval fortress and prison in Paris that symbolised the monarchy’s authoritarian rule. On July 14, 1789, a large crowd gathered outside the Bastille, demanding the release of political prisoners and the surrender of weapons stored inside. The crowd eventually stormed the fortress, leading to a violent confrontation with the guards. The fall of the Bastille became a symbol of the French Revolution and the uprising against the monarchy.
Above: Fresh pastries made in front of you in the open kitchen, fresh from the oven at Agathé Pâtisserie
Le Bal des Pompiers
One of the great modern-day celebrations that came out of this French National Day is called 'Le Bal des Pompiers' (the firefighters' ball), which is largely celebrated on the evening of the 14th with dancing and celebrations. A few years after we had visited for the 100th edition of the Tour de France and I was back in Australia, I would notice each year how the French community around me looked forward to this event, even thousands of kilometres away from their native home. The French love dancing and music and have even dedicated an entire different day to that, called 'Fête de la musique'.
The history of the firefighters' ball, is believed to have started in 1937 in the artist’s arrondissement of Montmartre when a group of people followed firefighters back from a fête nationale military parade. One particular firefighter had asked his superior if they could show the group around the fire station. It was such a success that it caught on annually with the addition of firefighting simulations, a bar and dancing.
These days if you ever find yourself in any part of France on the weekend of July 14, you’ll certainly get caught up in this jovial French tradition with music and dancing lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
Above: A freshly baked tart, from Agathé Pâtisserie
Bastille Day Today.
Today Bastille Day is celebrated as a national holiday with various events and festivities throughout France. The largest and most famous celebration takes place in Paris, where it is said that the military parade marching past the President of the Republic, French officials and other guests is the oldest and largest in Europe.
Bastille Day in Australia
As we head towards le 14 Juillet in Australia, there are ways for you to join in the festivities.
MELBOURNE: Thursday, July 6 - Sunday, July 9:
The Bastille Day Melbourne Festival will be held at Queen Victoria Market in sheds C and D. Here, you can expect some of Melbourne’s best French street food, masterclasses and French fun. Join AGFG on socials this Saturday for live updates as we tour the event and one lucky AGFG reader wins a double pass to their choice of the masterclass.
SYDNEY: Thursday, July 13 - Sunday, July 16:
The annual Bastille Festival is the largest in Australia, celebrating French Food, Wine & Art Revolution all around Circular Quay with free entry as it heads into its 10th edition. Be sure to watch the AGFG Instagram stories on the weekend of July 15-16 as we head to Sydney and share with you our Bastille Festival experience, from crepes to a walking wine tour and all the Frenchie exhibitors. (*There will be a sneaky prize giveaway, so stay tuned to our socials. )
BRISBANE: Friday July, 21 - Sunday, July 23:
Held in Victoria Park in Barrambin, Le Festival is back to illuminate Brisbane in its signature bleu-blanc-rouge.
Sorry Perthites, while the Bonjour Perth festival was held annually, COVID unfortunately put a stop to the festivities (for now).