In the United States, July 4th is Independence Day but other countries around the world are equally festive in commemorating their respective Independence Days. Indeed, in a post-colonialist world, most states–from Latin America to the Middle East to East Asia–have some kind of annual commemoration, usually with a national holiday included. In fact, Travel Guides International lists more than 100 national independence days. Here are just a few.
Australia, January 26
Down under, Independence Day celebrations are held on January 26. The day, known as Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Invasion Day or Foundation Day), marks Australia’s independence from the British, gained in 1788. One part of the celebration takes place in Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens, where aboriginal Australians perform traditional dances.
Ghana, March 6
In Ghana Independence Day is March 6, 1957. Therefore, an entire generation of Ghanaians has lived pre-independence. Many Ghanaians can tell you how their life has been directly affected by their nation’s independence. Ghana was the first black African country to become independent.
France, July 14
France’s annual celebration of independence is known as both La Fête Nationale and Bastille Day. It’s a grand affair and one of the country’s greatest parties. Additionally, Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille fortress, which helped topple King Louis XVI and is officially considered the kickoff to the French Revolution. Many French presidents have recognized the day by pardoning prisoners.
Colombia, July 20
In Colombia Independence Day marks the formation of the country’s first representative council in 1810 against Spanish rule. Latin American heroes like Simon Bolivar led the cause. The day is celebrated each year with national festivals centered on traditional folk dance and music. Much is oriented around Colombia’s flag.
Pakistan, August 14
In a celebration similar to those on July 4 in the United States, Pakistan honors its independence with a national holiday, flag-raising ceremonies and fireworks. August 14 commemorates independence from the British Raj in 1947, when what is now India and Pakistan were partitioned off as separate states very roughly based on religious-ethnic categories.
India, August 15
Flag-hoisting and national anthem singing are key components of India’s Independence Day. Elementary school students tell the stories of revolutionary heroes and learn about the struggles which brought their country independence. In a central event in the capital, New Delhi, the Prime Minister raises a flag over Red Fort and delivers a speech to tout the country’s accomplishments over the years.
Mexico, Not Cinco De Mayo But September 15-16
A common mistake made by Americans is thinking that Mexico celebrates its independence on Cinco de Mayo (May 5). But Mexico’s Independence Day begins the evening of September 15 and goes into September 16 under the name “Grito de Dolores.” It marks the day when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest from Dolores, gave a famous battle cry in the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. The remembrance begins with a bell-ringing reenactment ceremony, conducted by the President who repeats Hidalgo’s fateful cry. Parades follow throughout the next day.
Turkey, October 29
Turkey celebrates Republic Day every October 29. Since 1923 it’s been a day to celebrate the freedom of the nation and is marked by special performances and traditional processions with flags and musical bands. All official buildings and schools are closed. There are celebrations in every city, especially in the capital city. The Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk proclaimed Republic Day as Turkey’s most important holiday.
Finland, December 6
In Finland, a flag-raising tradition is performed at a central location, Tähtitorninmäki (“Observatory Hill”), to kick-start the nation’s Independence Day. The state then broadcasts screenings of the movie “The Unknown Soldier,” based off of Väinö Linna’s novel. The Finns gained their independence from Russia on December 6, 1917. Many people mark the day by lighting two candles in their windows, a custom with historical significance as a silent protest against Russia. Overall, the Finns celebrate in a far more toned-down manner than in many other countries.
What other national independence days do you know about? Can you share what you know?