14 July 2014
The day of national celebration of the birth of the Republic of France is upon us again. Known as the Fourteenth of July (Quatorze Juillet) in France and as Bastille Day to foreigners, it commemorates the beginning of the struggle to turn the government of France from an absolute monarchy to -- eventually -- a democracy.
The publicity wing of the military, L’établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD) has created a wonderful VIDEO that explains the history of the celebration of the day, complete with archive footage of parades down the Champs Elysées in Paris. It is a day of military pomp and display in the capital, to be sure.
There are, as the video above shows, hundreds of soldiers marching, some tanks rolling, some jets careening overhead. Every little town has its celebration as well, with evening fireworks and speeches by the mayor. In certain parts of France, there is also the tradition of erecting a tree-flagpole, nostalgically termed the plantation du mai ("planting the hawthorne", the ancient custom of the Maypole, co-opted in a somewhat baffling style by country politicos). This does not involve planting nor does it involve hawthorne, nor even a traditional Maypole of ribbons and dancing children.
In one village's celebration today, it involved a pine stripped of its branches and festooned with flags.
Which was secured to a railing by the village elders:
hoisted up with pulling and some very deft use of ladders:
To stand proudly over the village square:
After which a good time was had by all:
The sign on the tree reads "Honneur aux élus", literally, "Honour to elected officials" but a literal reading would be obtuse. The true meaning is to honour the electoral process, that is, democracy. Should you have an ancestor among the elected officials, you may begin to research them in a couple of places:
- An ancestor who was in the National Assembly will be listed in Data base of French Deputies.
- On Gallica, you can search the biographical dictionaries:
- Dictionnaire des parlementaires français (1789-1889), five volumes
- Dictionnaire des parlementaires francais de 1889 à 1940, eight volumes
- To know who ran for election on the local level, Seatch in Series M in the relevant Departmental Archives.
- To know about the local official's activities once elected, look at the Town Council Minutes, the Délibérations municipals, many of which are online on the websites of the Departmental Archives.
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©2014 Anne Morddel