Bastille Day, formally La Fête Nationale or The National Celebration, falls on July 14th and celebrates France’s freedom from monarchial rule. The French national holiday coincides with the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a large French jail that was a symbol of the King’s power. Similar to Independence Day in the U.S., it is a day when national pride is on full display. Just as with many other French holidays, Bastille Day is a grand occasion for a soirée in France — but it’s also celebrated around the world, as well, says Luc Dimnet, executive chef at Brasserie in New York City (and a native of Strasbourg, France).
If you can’t take part in the Bastille Day festivities on French soil (or want an excuse to throw a party where your guests can practice their French), host a celebration of your own at home this year. To give you a hand in planning, Dimnet has shared his favorite Bastille Day traditions and tips for hosting a celebration with us.
Bastille Day Traditions
In France, Bastille Day isn’t complete without three traditions — parades, feasts with friends and family, and fireworks — according to Dimnet. While the grandest parade takes place on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, many smaller towns host their own as well. After the parade, families and friends then gather for a large, lavish midday feast at home. After a lazy afternoon, the partying in the streets begins again in the town's main square, where a dance floor is often erected for townspeople to dance all evening to the music of a live band. As night falls, patriotic firework salutes light up the sky — an essential modern-day tradition that is the perfect way to end the holiday.
Traditionally, Bastille Day feasts were enjoyed picnic-style, but nowadays many families prefer to host an al fresco luncheon at home. Just as with any French gathering, Dimnet advices that the wine (French, of course!) should be freely flowing, plenty of good food should be served, and that festive music is playing. When planning the menu, Dimnet always chooses simple bistro fare, like the classic steak frites paired with lighter, vegetable-based dishes such as frisée salad and haricots verts. A delectable dessert like a tarte tatin is the perfect conclusion to the celebratory feast.