Wednesday, July 14, 2010

French Appreciation Month - Day 6 - Bastille Day

Day 6 - Bastille Day

Hey, everyone! Happy Bastille Day! The French definitely have something on the Americans with this holiday. This is a passionate event celebrated passionately. The event, the storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison, was the flashpoint of the French Revolution and the uprising of the modern nation of France and the beginnings of the overthrow of a monarchy. Almost a hundred people died in this event that threw all of Paris into a chaos of barricades and armed demonstrators and ended with the beheading of the governor of the Bastille and led to an epidemic of beheadings over the next few years.

Contrast that with America's celebration of Independence. We celebrate on July 4th. This date commemorates, effectively, a bunch of rich old white dudes putting quill to parchment. Now, don't get me wrong. The document itself is a passionate document that has world-wide significance and repercussions that are still feeling felt today. But the event of sitting down to sign a piece of paper kind of pales in comparison to mobbing a garrison while cannon fire is blowing through the crowd around you. And the actual date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is not exactly clear - it could have been as early as July 2nd and as late as August 2nd.

In fact, most of America's holidays could learn a bit from Bastille Day. We celebrate passionate ideas and passionate people, but we don't really celebrate passionate events. Memorial Day originated with our Civil War, but the date was specifically chosen to avoid an anniversary of any battle. President Grover Cleveland picked a day for Labor Day to specifically avoid the more internationally accepted date for Labor Day of May 1st. May 1st? A good day to riot. 1st Monday in September? A good day to barbeque or get a last trip to the beach in before school starts. Even Veterans Day celebrates the signing of paperwork rather than a key battle.

It would be really hard to change the dates of American holidays at this point, but I suppose we could all learn something from the French and perhaps we could celebrate those dates a little more passionately.

Thank you, France.

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