What You Need To Know About Bastille Day

07/14/2014 11:06 am ET | Updated Jul 14, 2014

Just ten days after Americans finish cleaning up their Fourth of July barbecues, the French get started on their own national holiday. Popularly called "Le Quatorze Juillet" (July 14th), Bastille Day marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille -- the event that signaled the start of the 1789 French Revolution.

Here are some facts about Bastille Day you may have never heard of.

  • 1 What the revolutionaries found inside the Bastille was quite disappointing.
    Prise de la Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houël
    On July 14, 1789, a mob stormed the Bastille -- a medieval fortress used as a hated prison -- after having demanded the arms and ammunition that were stored inside. It may surprise you, however, that the attackers only found seven prisoners inside the fortress.
  • 2 The Bastille fortress doesn't actually exist anymore.
    FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
    The Bastille fortress was destroyed in 1789 and the July Column monument that stands in place of the original building pays homage to a different revolution: the toppling of King Charles X in July, 1830. Today, the neighborhood is a hotspot for nightlife and concerts in the French capital.
  • 3 The military procession is pretty huge.
    AP Photo/Francois Mori
    Fireworks are only one part of the annual celebration. The real centerpiece of the holiday is the military parade, which stretches from the scenic Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Last year, 4,800 troops marched along with 241 horses; and 265 vehicles participated in addition to 58 planes and 35 helicopters.
  • 4 The sky is the limit on Le Quatorze Juillet.
    AP Photo/Francois Mori
    The military parade traditionally ends with paratroopers landing on Concorde Square, colorfully donning the French flag as part of their flying devices. And while these jumpers bring the red, white and blue colors down from the sky, the day ends with fireworks sending the French national colors back into the sky.
  • 5 Bastille Day might as well be a music festival.
    GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images
    In 1979, an outdoor concert with French musician Jean Michel Jarre broke a Guinness World Record by attracting a whopping one million person audience. A wide variety of concerts take place during the holiday each year, including large concerts at the Eiffel Tower and at the opera house. Several smaller events also crop up in the streets and in bars.
  • 6 The celebrations actually start on July 13th.
    The French are so eager to begin partying that they start a day early, on July 13th, with the "Bals des Pompiers," or the Firemen's Balls. Firehouses throw open their doors for dancing that goes late into the night. But the fun serves a good cause, too: the proceeds from the event goes to fundraising for the firemen.
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