Independence Day Around the Globe

The United States just celebrated Independence Day with parades, cookouts, fairs, carnivals, fireworks, and many more festivities!  In the United States, Independence Day is more commonly known as the Fourth of July, because on July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, declaring independence from Great Britain.  Let’s take a look at some other countries’ independence days and how they celebrate.

Afghanistan:  On August 19th, Afghanis celebrate Jeshen.  This day commemorates the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, which gave Afghanistan complete independence from Britain. Jeshen embodies the rich historical and cultural aspect of the country, such as the Afghan people’s love for poetry and classic art and painting.  To celebrate, people visit friends and families, prepare lavish meals, and attend special prayers.

Belize: Belize gained independence from Great Britain in 1981.  The first Prime Minister, George Cadle Price, was devoted to political and economic independence of “British Honduras” (now known as Belize). Independence Day activities include flag raising ceremonies, carnivals, and music making.  There is also street dancing, sumptuous Caribbean foods, and the coronation of Miss San Pedro (an annual beauty pageant), for entertainment.

Brazil: Dia da Independência (in Portuguese), or the Independence Day of Brazil, is commonly called Sete de Setembro. This day is the celebration of Brazil’s Declaration of Independence from Portugal on September 7th, 1822. To celebrate in Brasília, the capital, there is a military parade at the Ministries Esplanade in the presence of the President.  All state capitals and many cities throughout the country hold similar military parades. This particular one, however, costs about one million reais, and is attended by around 30,000 people. Brazilians are extremely proud of their independence. Students take part in the parade, flying the Brazilian flag with great dignity.  It is a symbol of great democracy and success.  After the parades, people gather in the roads, celebrating with banners, balloons and streamers. The carnival is held the whole day where people of all ages take part and have a grand time. In the evening, people gather to see brilliant fireworks above the Amazon.

Canada: Canada Day is celebrated on July 1st, commemorating the founding of the Canadian Federal Government by the British North America Act of July 1, 1867.  On this day of celebration, Canadians enjoy many of the same activities as Americans.

France: Bastille Day is the English name given to the French National Day, celebrated on July 14th each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July).  The Fête de la Fédération was held in 1790 on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille (a prison) on July 14th, 1789.  This anniversary was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy preceding the First Republic.  Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. On the morning of July 14th, the oldest and largest military parade in Europe is held on the Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris in front of the President, French officials, and foreign guests. The entire country feasts, and the President does hold a garden party at the Palais de l’Elysée.  In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy ended the tradition of the President giving an interview to members of the press, discussing the country’s current situation, recent events, and future projects.  He also ended the tradition of pardoning petty criminals on this day, though given the authority in Article 17 of the Constitution.

South Africa: Though South Africa achieved independence from Britain on May 31st, 1910, Freedom Day is celebrated on April 27th as the official Independence Day, commemorating the first democratic, non racial elections held in 1994.  On this day, South Africa was liberated from a long period of colonialism and white domination.  South Africans view it as the day for the restoration of peace, unity, and human dignity.  The people pledge to preserve their freedom and to wipe out any form of racism.  However, some question if they’re really free, because people remain poor, unemployed, and subject to a lot of violence and crime.  To many South Africans, freedom means the emancipation from poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.  Because of this, the people use Freedom Day as a constant reminder to keep fighting for a better life for all.

South Korea: South Korea celebrates independence from Japan as August 15th, 1945, though the actual day of independence was on August 13th, 1948.  On August 13th, 1948, South Korea was fully liberated from any sort of outside administration. The first President of the country, I Seung-man, chose the 15th instead of the 13th as the official day, however.  The day is celebrated with festivities and parades. The national flag is raised all over the country in honor of the great Koreans who fought for the country’s freedom.

Switzerland: August 1st, 1291 was the date on which three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation, so it is observed as Switzerland’s Independence Day.  Celebrations take place on the Rütli field (where the representatives met), with a public gathering addressed by the Federal president.  Politicians at all levels also address meetings all over Switzerland. Most people have bonfires and barbecues in the garden and watch fireworks.  Recently started, a new trend is to have brunch on the farm.  The idea was launched in 1993 by the Swiss Farmers’ Association to show people something of a farmer’s life.  Every Swiss commune lights its own bonfire and people light candles in their windows.  Children parade through the streets with paper lanterns that are often decorated with the Swiss cross or the symbols of the cantons.

Ukraine: Ukraine achieved independence from the Soviet Union on the August 24th, 1991.   The road to independence was a long, hard battle, and the constitution was adopted nearly five years after their independence.  On Independence Day, adults don’t go to their jobs, and children don’t attend school.  Instead, the Municipal prepares social activities for everybody to enjoy.  For children, a big circus is located in the center of the city.  During the day people go to the free markets where they can buy anything and everything. Noted as the best part of Ukrainian Independence Day are the evening fireworks. To continue celebrations, young people go to parties.  Some people protest the Independence Day, claiming that Ukraine really is not free.

 -Caitlen, 2012 GTS Fellow


One Comment on “Independence Day Around the Globe”

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