On July 14th, 1789, a crowd in Paris stormed the medieval fortress and prison known as the Bastille. Although, at the time, the prison only contained seven inmates (4 forgers, 2 « lunatics » and 1 « deviant »), and a decision had already been taken to close it, it remained a symbol of the oppression by the monarchy, and hence the storming has subsequently come to be viewed as critical event in the French Revolution. Today, these events are commemorated each year on July 14th, as a French national holiday (French: « Fête Nationale »), which is commonly known as « quatorze juillet » (« 14th of July »).
Today, Bastille Day is celebrated in France by a variety of events, including a military parade (« Défilé militaire du 14 juillet ») which passes down the Champs-Elysées in Paris from l’Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde, and has been held annually (although the route has varied) since 1880 (except during the period 1940 to 1944 when the Germans were occupying Paris). Bastille Day events also are held in a variety of other countries, including the United States; large celebrations are held in San Francisco’s French quarter, as well as in Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Bastille Day is a wonderful opportunity for school students to learn a bit more about France and French history, and Bastille Day activities could be considered for French language, history or geography classes for example. One fun activity for Bastille Day is to play Bastille Day Bingo. Basically the idea is to print-off some bingo cards (this can be done ahead of time by the teacher) containing words relating to the French Revolution or France more generally. You can play the game just like normal bingo (with the teacher acting as bingo caller) but use the words on the cards instead of numbers. You also have the option of varying game play if you want – you could for example require students to explain the significance of an item before allowing them to mark it off their cards.