In 6th grade I began taking French lessons from Madame Anne Vogt. She was Swiss, and spoke fluent French, German, Italian, Romansch (the fourth official language of Switzerland), as well as English. I can still read a bit of French even though speaking it fluently escapes me.
July 14 is France’s version of our Independence Day. It commemorates the 1789 storming of the Bastille – a fortress/prison in Paris where political prisoners were frequently held. (For you Anglophiles, the Bastille was similar to the Tower of London.)
The revolt was a rallying point for the common people of France to rise up and overthrow the absolutist monarchy and feudalistic society that had ruled them for centuries. Six weeks later, the leaders of the rebellion signed The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a precursor to the French constitution and an important document in the French Revolution that followed Bastille Day.
How is La Fête Nationale celebrated? With parades and fireworks and flags! Of course, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille involved a four-day celebration with fine wine (would you expect less from France?) and running naked in the streets. O-kaayyyy. Well, the French have always been less prudish than Americans.
Celebrate with our French friends and neighbors today. (Let’s just skip the naked-in-the-streets thing, please!) It’s worth remembering again this month just how precious and valuable freedom is, and how vital it is that we support those who fight for it, regardless of their nationality or ethnic background.
Everyone wants to be free.