On this day, in 1789, a bunch of outraged Parisians stormed the Bastille, a fortress and prison, located in the city's 11th Arrondissement (neighborhood). The angry Parisians were hoping to free the influential prisoners being held there, as well as steal ammunition. So what were the Parisians angry about? Many things, but primarily an unfair tax system, a struggle for hegemony, the uprising of the bourgeoisie (middle class) against the Empire brought on by a shortage of food and generalized discontent.
For the peasant class, the Bastille stood for as a symbol of hypocrisy and corruption of an elitist government. Blood was shed by the gallons as the peasant pillaged and set fire to the city. King Louis XVI and his bride, Marie-Antoinette, retreated to the palace of Versailles as the City of Paris burned around them.
The French recognize this day, and the beginning of the French Revolution that ensued, as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the new modern republic. The lasting significance of this event, not only for the French, but for many others as well, is that power could be held by ordinary people, not just by the King or God. This gave way to the French motto Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood). All freedom-loving peoples and frogs need to give a nod of thanks to French; for it is partially through their struggles that we can enjoy many of the freedoms we have today.
So, even if you're not French, don your beret, wave your tri-color flag, and celebrate this great day in history with wonderful French food, music, movies, and spirits. The French have given all of us so much to enjoy. And without the french Revolution, who knows if we'd have any of these gifts! I mean, can you even imagine an important celebration without a champagne toast? I know I am truly grateful.
As for me, I am planning a meal of delightful French flies washed down with a bottle of the finest imported French swampagne! (Bottled at the source...the River Seine, I believe.)
Vive la France!