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Today is a good day for red wine and revolution
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By Nicolas Henry

French and Chinese cultures have many common points, and as a Frenchman, I should know. We both share an immoderate taste for gastronomy, romantic and nostalgic passion for great stories in literature and poetry, and our most important similarity is our history of revolution.

Today is Bastille Day and it is the most French day on our calendar. In many ways it best sums up the French spirit, in which some do and some don't.

Today was the day when French demonstrated in the street against the government. It commemorates the fall of one of the most important symbols of despotism and monarchy, the Bastille Castle, which was known as the most fearsome prison in France.

To be honest, the Bastille was nearly empty of soldiers when the people's militia rushed into the jail, and the prisoners included a couple of smugglers, an incestuous noble and a simpleton named Antoine.

The real importance of the first people's victory didn't register with the people in power. In fact, in Louis XVI's royal diary, the king marked July 14 with the dramatic words: Nothing Special. As we all know, his judgment was very premature.

The French always search for every excuse to celebrate, but we're not the kind of people who are simply happy by singing an anthem, hand on the heart, with profound seriousness.

A popular event of Bastille Day is the military parade, but even this ceremony is far from the solemnity of China's National Day.

Many French ignore the parade and instead turn to the words of the poet singer, Georges Brassens: Le jour du 14 juillet / je reste dans mon lit douillet / la musique qui marche au pas / cela ne me regarde pas (The 14 of July/ I'd rather stay in bed/ I really don't care about / the rhythm of military boots).

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