July 14, yes! But what year?
Let's be clear, we are not going to tell you anything: on July 14, 1789, the Parisians, in particular the craftsmen and shopkeepers of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, stormed the Bastille fortress, then a royal prison, in order to take possession of its stock of arms and ammunition.
The prison governor then orders the guards to open fire on the crowd before surrendering in the face of popular pressure. The storming of the Bastille will remain one of the founding events of the French Revolution, the starting point of the first fall of the monarchy in France.
But another July 14 also allows us to understand the importance of this date in the history of the Republic. A year later, in 1790, the storming of the Bastille was celebrated on the occasion of a great Fête de la Fédération organized at the Champ-de-Mars, in Paris. All the local federations of national guards then parade there to celebrate the union of the Nation, in the presence of Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette.
Nearly a century later, under the Third Republic, the law of July 6, 1880 adopted July 14 as a national holiday. The legislative text, carried by the deputy Benjamin Raspail, does not give a precise explanation concerning the reasons for this choice. Historians will therefore remember that the French national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille AND the Fête de la Fédération.
But why a ball?
As she returns from the military parade with a rhythmic step, the Montmartre fire brigade is followed by a small group of onlookers to the barracks. Sergeant Cournet asks Colonel Buffet, in charge of the premises, for permission to open the doors to the curious and to continue the party together. This one accepts. Citizens and firefighters are celebrating July 14 for the first time at a big joint ball! Bengal lights, gymnastics demonstrations, simulations of the start of a fire… the firefighters put the package on the entertainment side. Building on its success, the idea spread to other barracks and towns in the following years. The 1939-1945 war put this tradition on hold, but since then no July 14th has taken place without a ball.