French Language Blog

Joyeuse Fête Nationale! See Sarkozy, Fireworks, and More! Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 in Culture

What do the Champs Élysées, the Armed Forces of France, and fireworks have to do with each other? On July 14th, all of those things mean it is Bastille Day, known as the Fête Nationale (National Holiday) or 14 Juillet in French. The French capital has a long history of celebrating the country’s national holiday with a variety of different events over the course of the day, including the défilé militaire (military parade) along the Champs Élysées and the feu d’artifice (fireworks) over the city’s most iconic landmark, La Tour Eiffel.

The military parade has been taking place in Paris since 1880, and is one of the oldest and most prestigious military parades in the world. The parade involves members of the French Armed Forces marching down the street on foot, in motorized vehicles, and on horseback. The parade also involves an impressive défilé aérien (aerial parade), in which several interesting aircraft fly in formation over the city’s streets. The procession progresses from L’Arc de Triomphe and proceeds to Place de La Concorde, at the end of the avenue des Champs Élysées.When the military servicemen reach Place de La Concorde, the salute both the French President and the government, in addition to foreign dignitaries who have been invited to the event.

Once the festivities along the route have concluded, many French citizens spend the day enjoying their jour férié (public holiday). One of the most popular spots in the city is the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Sunbathers and picnickers alike spend the afternoon enjoying the

atmosphere and reserving a great spot for the evening fireworks. This year, there was a specialconcert on the Champs de Mars called “Le Concert Pour l’Égalité” (the Concert for Equality.) The concert was sponsored by the SOS Racisme, an organization that fights anti-discriminatory and racist policies in government and business. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people attended the concert.

At 11 P.M., the city launches fireworks against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. In preparation for the event, the city cordons off many of the arteries that feed the roads leading up to the Eiffel Tower. The crowds gather in the streets and sidewalk to watch a spectacular display over the Seine, which patriotic music plays along the Champs de Mars.

To enjoy some highlights from the Parisian celebrations of 2011, check out the quick video below, which features a quick glance of current French President Nicolas Sarkozy as he made his way down the avenue des Champs Élysées yesterday morning.


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