Independence Day Celebrations Around the World

As I watched the 4th of July fireworks in my small home town in Oregon, I started to wonder what kinds of similar celebrations are happening in other countries at different times of the year.  Most countries appear to have at least one day of national pride, and it is often associated with gaining independence or winning a pivotal battle, and it usually is observed with a holiday.  After some extensive research, and by research I of course mean “Googling” the following is a compilation of just a few of my findings.  Knowing these dates may also help you plan your trip in order to avoid closed tourist sites or a busy airport or train station.

Peru, July 28th-29th
Peruvians dedicate two days in honor of their independence: July 28th and 29th.  On 12 July 1821, after seizing partial control of Lima, Argentine general, San Martín was appointed Protector of Peru, and Peruvian independence was officially declared on the 28th of July.  On July 29th, a celebration is held in honor of the Armed Forces and National Police.  A cannon salute begins the nationwide celebration in Lima, followed by Te Deum mass, led by the Lima’s Archbishop.  During the entire month of July, you will see Peruvian flags adorning most buildings and homes throughout Peru.

Argentina, July 9th
Argentina’s independence from Spain was formally proclaimed on 9 July 1816,  The Argentine War of Independence was initiated in 1810 by such leaders as Juan Jose Castelli, Manuel Belgrano, and perhaps most famously, Jose de San Martin.  One of Buenos Aires’ most famous sites is its Avenida de Julio 9 (July 9 Avenue) which has up to seven lanes in each direction and two lanes of parallel artery streets on each side.  Independence Day is celebrated with political parades in Buenos Aires, and while schools are closed, there are no fireworks and festivities like in other countries.

Colombia, July 20th
In 1819, Simon Bolivar led the Battle of Boyaca, and secured independence for Greater Colombia.  National festivals centered on traditional regional folk dance and music take place on July 20th each year to celebrate the formation of the country’s first representative council in 1810 against Spanish rule.  Much like the USA, there is much reverence for the flag on this day.

Pakistan, August 14th
In 1947, India and Pakistan gained their freedom from Britain, and were partitioned off as separate states roughly based on religious-ethnic categories.  Pakistan celebrates its independence from British rule on August 14th with a national holiday, flag-raising ceremonies and fireworks. 

India, August 15th
On August 15, 1947, more than 200 years of British colonial rule over India came to an end. Now, every year, the people of India commemorate the historic event by decorating their homes, businesses, and schools with India’s  saffron, white and emerald-green flag. They sing the national anthem and pay respect to the national flag in morning celebrations, and the Prime Minister praises the country’s accomplishments over the years, while a flag is raised over the Red Fort in Delhi.

Finland, December 6th
On December 6, 1917, the Finns gained their independence from Russia. Elsewhere, A flag-raising tradition is performed at a central location, Tähtitorninmäki (“Observatory Hill”), to start the day, which many people mark by lighting two candles in their windows.  This custom has historical significance as a silent protest against Russia, and is carried out in a more mild manner than other independence day celebrations around the world. 

Mexico, September 16th
While many Americans and Mexican-Americans may have their own Cinco de Mayo celebrations, it is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Mexicans observe Independence Day in September to memorialize the Grito de Dolores – the September 16, 1810 battle cry uttered by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores. The remembrance begins with a bell-ringing reenactment ceremony the evening of September 15, and the next day, there are parades, concerts, and parties all over the country.

Israel, May 14th
On May 14th, 1948, David Ben Gurion declared an Israeli state.  Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) falls on the 5th of the Jewish month of Iyar, and is celebrated with a ceremony Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl,  with the lighting of twelve torches, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  The honor of lighting them is given to twelve individuals each year who made significant contributions to society.  There is also a speech, flag ceremony, prayers, and a march.

Canada Day, July 1st
Canada Day celebrates the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867), which united the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec).

South Africa, April 27th
South Africa gained its independence from Britain on 31 May, 1910, but this is not the day commemorating Independence.  While we generally think of Independence as being free of another country’s rule, in South Africa, “Freedom Day” celebrates the freedom of oppression and the abolishment of racism.  It is celebrated with many social events on April 27th every year, commemorating the first democratic, non racial elections held in 1994.  On this day, people across South Africa pay tribute to the men and women who have made enormous sacrifices to end the oppression of the masses.

Ghana, March 6th
The first country to gain its independence from the United Kingdom was Ghana in 1957.  Today, fireworks, parades, street parties, and marches commemorate the historic event.  If you are into music and dance, then head to the coastal region, which celebrates Independence Day on the beach, mixing the elements of West African tradition with hip hop. 

France, July 14th
It was France who started the tradition of holding a military parade to commemorate Independence Day.  Every year, the French celebrate their country’s independence from oppressive royal rule on July 14 – the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, and the day starts with a military parade on Champs-Élysées. 

Cambodia, November 9th
Phnom Penh’s Independent Monument was built to mark Cambodia’s 1953 liberation from French rule. Independence Day festivities center on the monument, which becomes a central gathering point for Cambodian citizens from around the country. 

Brazil, September, 7th
In one of the most peaceful Latin American revolutions, Brazil won its freedom after Portuguese prince Dom Pedro I declared it independent of his father’s rule on September 7th, 1822. Independence Day, Sete de Setembro (September 7), is honored by patriotic displays and parades in many Brazilian cities, most notably, its capitol, Brasilia. 

This is just a handful of the many countries that honor and celebrate a specific day of independence, and these days are usually celebrated in some form by expats around the world.  For instance, in New York City, Brazilian Day is celebrated at 46th Street, near Times Square, in Manhattan.  Around the world, independence days are usually more of a celebration of the country itself, not just the date that it gained independence.

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