Feasts, fêtes and fireworks are the traditional ways to celebrate Bastille Day in France. But before the partying, a brief explanation is in order. Variously called la Fête Nationale or 14 juillet, the holiday is commemorated on July 14, the day that the people of Paris stormed the Bastille prison in 1789 and effectively began the violent overthrow of the monarchy to make way for a republic. So, much like Independence Day in the United States, Bastille Day is a national holiday that marks the beginning of a modern nation. Traditionally the revelry begins the night before, with elaborate parties and balls. If you are in Paris on the morning of Bastille Day, you will see the world’s largest and oldest military procession make its way from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. With the President of France at the head of the parade and jets flying overhead it is a marvelous spectacle. Afterward, the President hosts a garden party, but don’t expect a personal invitation. Most Parisians, and their countryside counterparts, settle in for an afternoon of outdoor parties, with lots of eating and drinking. As they took to the streets during the revolution, so they take to the streets on Bastille Day, only this time to share good times. The day ends with a spectacular fireworks display, with the Eiffel Tower serving as a backdrop, though the colorful explosions are common across the country in smaller towns and cities also. Petit DejeunerWherever you are celebrating, start your Bastille Day right with a French-style breakfast. Thin and delicate crêpes make the perfect choice; you can stuff them with mushrooms and bacon if you are the savory sort, or if you have a sweet tooth, choose fruits or chocolate and top with whipped cream. Did you know the ham and cheese sandwich was first made in France? A hot croque monsieur makes a lovely breakfast or brunch. Delicious truffle butter takes toast from blah to bourgeios (don’t worry, they were from the class called the Third Estate, and were actually part of the revolution). Let them eat…pâté! In the afternoon, après the parade in Paris, or wherever you are in the world, a simple picnic with a French accent is the perfect way to mark the occasion. This is the time for a fresh baguette, bottle of wine, a wheel of cheese and some charcuterie. If you are feeling extravagant, and don’t have a ball to attend, make a quiche the night before, chill it and pack it up for the picnic basket. While there is no traditional food associated with Bastille Day, many choose to eat peasant food in a nod to the proletariat nature of the uprising. Street parties often feature outdoor grills, and mounds of lamb merguez sausage, which is the national equivalent of the hot dog in the United States. The French have made the spicy merguez sausage, which originated in North Africa, their own. It is grilled, tucked into a baguette, slathered with Dijon mustard and often topped with a helping of french fries. This sandwich is considered by many to be de rigueur at any Bastille Day party. Take it to the Streets Spend the afternoon sipping pastis and playing pétanque, a French game like bocce, but with heavier steel balls (called boules). Many cities in the United States have groups which promote French culture and language, such as French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). They will often host a street festival or pétanque tournament that will be open to the public. French restaurants across the country commonly plan special dinners, street festivals and other events to mark Bastille Day. One such unusual celebration takes place in Philadelphia, where on the high walls of a 19th century prison, a local restaurateur dons a Marie Antoinette costume and wig and then tosses Tasty Cakes down to an eager crowd. Obviously, there are no rules when you celebrate Bastille Day in America. So learn the lyrics of La Marseillaise, get a Tricolor (the French flag) to wave, and raise your voice—and your glass--for liberté, égalité, fraternité!