Did you know that the 4th of July, the date celebrating the declaration of Independence of the United States, was also an important date of celebration in France for decades?
At the time of the First World War, as early as 1917, French newspapers of that time record celebrations in France organized to honor the United States, the “sister republic” that came to help France fight against Germany. The newspapers describe large crowds gathered in the capital but also in the provincial cities to celebrate the independence of the United States and their friendship with the Americans. It was in fact in 1917 that the Americans, new allies of the French, arrived to join them in the battle against the Germans.
The celebration of the 4th of July will continue in France after the First World War and until the end of the 1930s. Since 1926, to celebrate this date and to emphasize the alliance between the United States and France, an American delegation comes to Paris to lay a wreath on the tomb of La Fayette. This symbolic gesture was initiated by the Society of Cincinnati of France and the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
After World War II, things changed and the celebration of the 4th of July in France almost completely disappeared. French newspapers of the time mention some of the much more modest and ceremonial tributes that still take place, but the celebrations no longer draw large crowds as they did in the years following World War I and the 1920s and 1930s.
Today, more than a century after the year 1917 when the United States fought with France, the Fourth of July is hardly celebrated at all in France, except by diplomatic protocol and privately by a few Americans who live in the country. This can be explained by the fact that the veterans of the two world wars have passed away, and thus the relationship of the current generations to past events has evolved and diminished. It can also be explained by the fact that diplomatic relations between France and the United States have evolved, especially since the presidencies of George W. Bush Jr. and Donald Trump and events that have cast a pall over the relationship between the two countries.
Nevertheless, even if July is not celebrated in France as it once was, the ties between the United States and France remain important and seem to be moving in a more positive direction than in years past. In any event, on the diplomatic front, the cultural and social interest of the French, especially the younger ones, in the United States and conversely the interest of Americans who travel to France, remains in itself a form of celebration of the ties that bind us and of our common history.