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Article by Martin

There is no more important day in France than Bastille Day when crowds throng to the Champs- Elysees on 14th July annually to celebrate Bastille Day. The 14th of July in 1789 was the day when crowds stormed the Bastille, an action which marks the beginning of the modern French State, the end of the power of the French Monarchy as it had existed for centuries.

It is a day to appreciate Ladies summer dresses and men in the latest fashions gather to enjoy the programme of events. The tradition of celebration had begun in 1790, the first anniversary of the storming, and so the tradition continued from that time onwards.

Way back in the summer of 1789, Louis XVI had listened to the grievances of the people. He gradually had to accept that things had to change, and the legislative body evolved quite quickly over just a few weeks. However, when a deputy of the common people was dismissed on 11th July, Parisians feared that this was a sign of the determination of the King and the military to resist change. The result was that the masses decided to storm the Bastille, a fort-prison where many dissidents were thought to be imprisoned.

In actual fact there were only seven fairly insignificant prisoners in there on 14th July. The Governor of the Bastille decided to open the gates when he saw the strength and determination of the crowds which by then included some forces who had changed sides when they saw how the situation was changing. Some misunderstandings led to fighting resuming, and a few people were killed but the trouble was brief. It soon died down and shortly afterwards, a few days later, the King abolished feudalism and people’s rights were established.

Bastille Day as a national holiday is enshrined in French law, signifying that end to feudalism. The Day begins with a parade of cadets and includes invited infantry from France’s allies. Its route goes down the Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde and is televised nationwide.

The French President is the central figure of the day, with the power of pardoning criminals if he sees fit. His address includes a review of every modern day French issue, the economy being prominent in his address. He also hosts a garden party where ambassadors and their wives in ladies summer dresses, the rich and famous gather to enjoy the country’s fine food and wine.

President Sarkozy has chosen to ignore some of the elements of the day under previous Presidents but that has not detracted both from the significance of the day or the enjoyment of the day.

The crowds meanwhile simply enjoy the atmosphere of central Paris, with the bars and cafes doing a roaring trade. There are few finer cities in the world to enjoy an outdoor party than Paris.

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President George W. Bush pardoned Pumpkin, the National Thanksgiving turkey, at a Rose Garden ceremony Wednesday. (Nov. 26)
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