July 14 is "La Fête Nationale," the National Holiday of France. It's more commonly known as Bastille Day on the other side of the Atlantic.
Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution in 1789. Much like Fourth of July celebrations, July 14 is typically celebrated with parades, picnics and fireworks. Each year, French residents in the D.C.-metro area are invited to the French Embassy for an evening of festivities.
For the rest of us, Bastille Day is a fun opportunity to appreciate and learn more about French culture.
Did you know:
- The Celtic tribe Parisii established the city now known as Paris in 250 BC. The city was named Luteca by the Romans in 52 BC. The French state was later founded in 843 AD.
- You could drive to France! St. Pierre et Miquelon is France’s oldest remaining overseas territory, located just 12 miles from Newfoundland. You can reach the tiny islands by ferry from Nova Scotia.
- French nationals such as Lafayette and Pierre Charles L’Enfant fought with the Colonists in the American Revolution. L’Enfant later designed the layout for much of Washington, D.C., and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Lafayette is buried in Paris under American soil from Bunker Hill in Boston, Mass.
- The Statue of Liberty was designed by French national Frédéric Bartholdi. Lady Liberty’s face is modeled after his mom.
- The tradition of decorating Christmas trees with glass balls initiated in eastern France (then part of Germany) in 1858. Trees were typically decorated with flowers and apples. The glass balls replaced the apples after a devastating drought destroyed the apple harvest.
Becky Anderson is a local Del Ray mom and owner of Old Town French, which holds immersion language classes for children. She kicks off her family’s celebration by making homemade crepes. She says that even “if you're not French, there are still lots of interesting things to do” in the D.C. area.
Here are a few ideas:
The Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in D.C. have partnered with Alliance Française de Washington for its annual French Festival, highlighting 18th century France, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be games, interactive theatrics, dance, music, exhibits and workshops for the whole family.
The L’Enfant Café is holding its eighth annual Bastille Day Street Bash, a French Maid Relay Race, and a Masquerade Street Ball. The block party runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and features music, can-can dancers, a food pavilion and a beer garden.
Looking to stay closer to home?
The Paper Source (King St.) in conjunction with Old Town French will have a French-themed Mommy and Me crafts workshop for kids ages 5 and up. For more information, contact the Paper Source at 703-299-9950.
Head over to the for a delicious French brunch or dinner. Or visit for their Bastille Day Celebration with wine specials, trivia, prix-fixe dinner and kid-friendly crepes. Also, look for the Fontaine crepe cart in front of City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For the younger set, reenact the storming of the Bastille by constructing a fort out of cushions and then knocking it down. Then, whip up some kid-friendly French food and watch the Disney Pixar film "Ratatouille."
"Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!"
What are your Bastille Day plans? Tell us in the comments.