What does one say on Bastille Day to a French person? Having been here long enough to know that the French don’t call July 14 “Bastille Day” the way we Anglophones do, I was in a quandary as to how to wish a happy national holiday to my French family and friends. I asked Michel and he said, “We don’t do that. We celebrate, but we don’t have a sentence like that, like you do in America. It might seem strange, but we don’t.”
So I posted a Facebook status asking my French friends if this were true. I tweeted about it. To date, I’ve gotten only two responses, and no one has disabused me of this notion. Consequently, I will assume that this is either true or of insufficient importance to most French to warrant a response. (Special thanks, though, to Nicolas for the very festive suggestions of greeting my French entourage with “Happy Parade” or “Happy Vacation” or “Happy Fireworks” or “Happy Firemen’s Ball.”)
Alors, since I apparently shouldn’t say “Happy Bastille Day” … and since I apparently don’t have to say “Bonne fête nationale” or “Bonne fête du 14 juillet” or simply “Bonne fête” (the most appropriate candidates, it seems) … and since I’m not going to wish anyone a Happy Firemen’s Ball … I’ll just leave you with this:
July 15 update: Click here to read about the eventual resolution of this quandary.
P.S. — For a little bit of the history of Bastille Day, check this out: “The Bastille Might be the Symbol, but it Wasn’t the Beginning … or the End”
© 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved