The Bastille, formally known as Bastille Saint-Antoine, was the notorious Parisian prison which is best known for the 'storming of the Bastille' which took place on July 14th, 1789 which is now synonymous with the beginning of the French Revolution.
A year later the storming of the Bastille was celebrated by the 'Fête de la Fédération' – loosely translated as 'federation celebrates'. Today France annually celebrates the 'Fête Nationale' a national holiday on July 14th. The day is more commonly known outside of France as Bastille Day.
It is commonly asserted that the storming of the Bastille – French for 'castle' or 'stronghold' by the French peasants was solely to release the prisoners, however the Bastille was also used as a store for the French Army's weapons and as such was an obvious, but less romantic, target.
Today, Bastille Day is marked by a huge military parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris at which the French President takes the salute. Following the parade, the President traditionally hosts a garden party at his official residence, the Élysée Palace, and then addresses the nation. In the afternoon there is often a political rally at the Place de la Bastille, site of the prison , and in the evening there are a number of organized firework displays. It has to be said that many historians believe that the Storming of the Bastille was more a symbolic act providing a rallying point for the revolution rather than being a real act of defiance of the state. In reality when the Bastille was stormed, there were only a handful of prisoners left in the cells and the Bastille itself was poorly defended by less than 100 soldiers too old for normal service. These 'invalides' had been reinforced by 30 grenadiers bringing the total force to just over 100. At the end of July 14, within the Bastille there were a hundred dead protesters and only one defender. The death count of the defenders was to rise once the Bastille had fallen with several soldiers being reported as having been lynched and murdered in the streets. The glorification of the events in Paris of July 14th 1789 is owed primarily to the publication of the work 'Révolutions de Paris which included many false descriptions of both the actual events and of the number of prisoners actually released.
As we have seen today, Bastille Day is celebrated as any other national holiday that is, as a joyous day of festivals and organized events. Many Parisians organize their own local celebration parties and it's a great time for people to get together. In the UK, there is some growth in the understanding of what the day symbolises – the British love an underdog and there are some low-key and localized celebrations. We have not seen a great demand for Bastille Party products – as yet – but as summers become warmer this trend may change as Bastille Day offers many opportunities for them fancy dress parties.
Karnival Costumes has a range of French related instant fancy dress sets and hats, all available from stock for immediate dispatch.