Playing Pétanque on Bastille Day

Aim it near the jack,” a common phrase that you might hear these days if you happen to traverse the streets of France. But who or what this Jack is? Before answering this let me throw a question at you. How do you celebrate any festival? Simply, by organizing feasts, throwing parties, getting yourself indulged in singing and dancing or so…but here we have France that does everything that has just been mentioned along with playing a special game called “Petanque” to celebrate its National Day known as le quatorze juillet or the la fête nationale.  Jack becomes your target in this game. The nearer you throw your metallic balls near it, the more are your chances to win.

Petanque is also known around the world as Boules in French. It is an exciting game that was first played in France around 1907 and has quickly become very popular all over the world. It can be played outdoors by everyone no matter what their age or athletic ability. All that’s needed is a friend or two, an open space, a small ball called a jack, six or 8 larger metal balls called boules and the ability to aim and throw.

Near the Jack...
Near the Jack…

To play Petanque, players divide up into two teams composed of one, two or three players. After deciding who goes first, a player throws the jack from a designated throwing spot. The rest of the game is spent trying to throw your boules closer to the jack than the other team does. After all the boules are thrown, the team with the closest boule receives a point for each boule that is closer to the jack than their opponents. The first team to earn 13 points wins the game.

The Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Cambodia, Pondicherry (India) that have a history of French colonial influence actively participate in Pétanque. The Pétanque World Championships, an international competition takes place every two years.

However, since it’s the Bastille season in France, you may find people gathering outside their homes to either actively participate in the game or for becoming a cheerful spectator trying to enthuse their favorite teams. Now something about the “Bastille Day”.

Most of the English speaking countries name France National Day as the “Bastille Day”. The Bastille functioned primarily as a penitentiary, from 1659 onwards to detain those who protested against the supremacy of monarchy. The day commemorates the storming of a French prison, the Bastille, on July 14, 1789. This is when a large group of people in France rebelled against their corrupt king and queen.

But what does the Bastille Day in France actually mean to French and Francophiles?? Though France’s national day is named after the storming of the Bastille, it isn’t really about that event. For the French, the holiday is mainly about national pride: the tricolor bleu-blanc-rouge flag, France’s national anthem La Marseillaise, and the values liberté, fraternité, and égalité are much more important to this day than the storming of the Bastille.The day marks the end of Monarchy, Despotism and the beginning of modern Republic.

Every year the celebration of la fête nationale begins with the traditional Military Parade down the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The parade is accompanied by musical performances, including a rendition of the national anthem. The day becomes more dynamic with live dance and music performances and games like pétanque.And, the rendezvous continues well into the night with The Eiffel Tower being lit up with amazing and spectacular fireworks displays.

Eiffel Towers celebrating Bastille Day
Eiffel Towers celebrating Bastille Day

And Petanque, the game with no bars on happiness and age adds to the festivities even more.


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