Bastille Day: What will France’s July 14th ‘fête nationale’ look like this year?

While things are getting back to normal in France, many summer festivals and celebrations have been cancelled due to ongoing coronavirus crisis. So what will the traditional Bastille Day celebration look like this year?

Bastille Day: What will France’s July 14th 'fête nationale' look like this year?
The traditional Bastille day fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

France’s fête nationale on July 14th will be bit different this year as traditional parades and celebrations including the highly popular bals de pompiers, where French firefighters host parties in their station houses, have been called off.

But this doesn’t mean it will be all gloom, as some celebrations will be maintained – albeit with some new health measures.

Paris Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower

The famous Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower will be held as usual, but without the regular crowds watching the show from below.

The Prefect of Paris has banned any gatherings starting from 11am on on the Champs-de-Mars stretch of grass below the Tower.

Access around the metro stations Trocadéro and on the Pont d’Iéna will also be restricted starting from 4pm to restrain gatherings around the iconic monument.

The fireworks show is scheduled for 11pm. on July 14th will be visible on TV, but you can also enjoy the show from the Montparnasse Tower, who is selling tickets online to see the fireworks from its panoramic rooftop.  

You can also see the show from cruise boats, such as UNIK which organizes a special menu for July 14th.

Champs de Mars symphony concert

The usual symphony concert hosted by Radio France on the lawn of Champs de Mars will be maintained, but with a virtual audience only.

The live show will air at 9.15pm on the radio France Inter and on France 2 TV.

Paris' traditional airshow

This year the July 14th military parade down the Champs-Elysées will be replaced by a tribute to the medical workers on Place de la Concorde.

The French president's office announced that rather than the traditional march of soldiers and display of military hardware down the Champs-Elysées, this year will see a much smaller ceremony at the Place de la Concorde, where the parade normally ends.

The planned ceremony will be “reduced to 2,000 participants and about 2,500 guests”, in compliance with the rules of social distancing, the Elysée said.

However Bastille Day’s traditional airshow has been confirmed

For a great view of the show, you can head to the rooftop of the Grande Arche of La Défense, the business district in the west of Paris, to see fighter jets and other fighter planes flying over the building before heading to the Champs-Elysées. Doors open at 9am, but you can reserve tickets here.

What about other cities in France?

Many mayors don’t want to risk gatherings of more than 5,000 people, which are banned at least until the end of August.

Some cities will mark the celebration in alternative ways, like in Pau, southwest France, where the town hall will releas lantern lights into the sky.

The best is to check the website of your local City Hall to get the exact details on the celebrations in your area.

In Bordeaux the usual firework display over the Garonne river has been cancelled due to the ban on gatherings over 5,000 people and the authorities not wanting to take any risks.

A military parade will take place “behind closed doors” at Bordeaux's Hotel de Ville.

Macron to speak to the nation

Just in case you were interested in hearing what President Emmanuel Macron had to say, he will address the nation at 1pm on July 14th.

Member comments

  1. Release fire lanterns? These are bloody worse for animals especially cattle then fireworks. Ban the lot.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Saint Nicolas: What is the festival celebrated in parts of France on December 6th?

While Christmas is the main event in terms of December festivals, certain parts of France have an extra day of celebration on December 6th.

Saint Nicolas: What is the festival celebrated in parts of France on December 6th?
The German influence on north-east France means that Saint Nicolas Day is celebrated. Photo: AFP

For people in north-east France, Monday, December 6th marks Saint Nicolas Day – with family celebrations and lots of gingerbread.

The reason the festival is only really celebrated in one corner of France is connected to the history of Alsace-Lorraine, which passed between French and German hands several times in the nineteenth century, leaving the inhabitants with a lot of German influences on language, cuisine and festivals.

READ ALSO Why is Good Friday not a holiday in (most of) France?

Decorated pain d’épices (gingerbread) is an important part of the festival. Photo: AFP

The north east of France is generally known as the ‘Christmas centre’ echoing many of the traditions of a German Christmas while Strasbourg, which hosts a huge Christmas market, bills itself as the ‘Christmas capital of France’.

And the celebration of Saint Nicolas is the mark of another German influence as the festival – known over the border as Nikolaustag – is a big deal in Germany.

Saint Nicolas is said to have saved three children who were kidnapped by a butcher, and is therefore the patron saint of children. He is a different figure to Father Christmas (Père Noël), although some of some of his traditions are similar. 

READ ALSO Why is Nikolaustage celebrated before Christmas in Germany?

Père Fouettard brings a whip to naughty children, while well-behaved ones get sweets. Photo: AFP

In France it’s a bit more low key, but still an important tradition to the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine.

French language expert and founder of French today Camille Chevalier-Karfis, whose family is originally from Alsace-Lorraine, said: “It’s an important festival in the Christian calendar but it’s also important to families who grew up in that area, my mother always liked to have us all visiting for Saint Nicolas.

“He is the patron saint of children and traditionally on December 6th he brings little gifts – sweets, dried fruits, chocolate or gingerbread – for children. But – crucially – only well-behaved children, naughty children get a visit from Père Fouettard who brings a whip for bad kids.

“Traditionally Père Fouettard had black servants but that doesn’t really happen any more.

“For some strict Catholic families in that area, Christmas is celebrated purely as a religious event and so Saint Nicolas is the time for visiting family, having a nice dinner together and giving little gifts.”

Many places also have parades or festivals of Saint Nicolas, while shops in Alsace-Lorraine sell the region’s famous decorated gingerbread.

Camille added: “Celebrating Saint Nicolas as well as Christmas is actually quite practical – if my whole family are together for Saint Nicolas then we can visit in-laws or other family members at Christmas.”

Camille Chevalier-Karfis is a French language expert, and founder of