Happy Bastille Day?

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:

Vive la France ! Vive la République !

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

6 thoughts on “Happy Bastille Day?

  1. What does one say on Bastille Day to a French person?
    There are many possibilites : Good morning ! Hello ! Hey what a nice day ! You look terrible : did you sleep last night ? and so on…
    In fact, lots of people are on TV looking at the Défilé and waiting for the evening fireworks (in Paris à la Tour Eiffel). For the rest of the day, that’s just the day off who marks the beginning of the summer holidays. And I didn’t see a person shaking a little french flag on the streets ever. Maybe there are some on the Champs-Elysées. But, are they really french ? 😉

  2. To date I’ve still never really seen anyone wave a british flag…they must be tourists…

    It’s quite an Americanism, happy 4th of july…happy thinks giving…stars and stripes hanging out of windows…if you must I think joyeux quartorze juillet! Instead I’d party till dawn!

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