Tomorrow is our nation’s favorite holiday, when we celebrate the anniversary of our independence—at least, in spirit if not in actual fact. It’s a long weekend of barbecue, fireworks, and probably some Budweiser, and way too many photos hash tagged with #murrica (why do we do this? Please don’t do this). Independent as we are, though, we’re not unique in our celebrations. Many other countries do independence just a big as we do, and in some cases even bigger. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite independence day traditions from around the world—so, you know, we can celebrate alongside our global brethren. Those of you with French heritage: get pumped. Bastille Day is just around the corner!
Mexico (September 16, 1810)
Even though Mexican independence wasn’t technically declared until September 28, 1821, the 16th marks a huge holiday in Mexico—remembrance of the “Cry of Independence,” or Father Miguel Hidalgo’s encouragement to take up arms against the impending Spanish troops.
These days, the celebration begins at 11pm on September 15th, when local politicians reenact Hidalgo’s call. The President rings the bell of the National Palace, gives a short patriotic speech and ends with the cry “¡Viva México!” which is echoed by the crowd, the waving of the Mexican flag and a chorus of the nation’s anthem.The next morning, a national military parade kicks off a day of festivals, concerts, parades and marching band competitions.
Chile (September 18, 1810)
Chilean independence day marks the country’s break from Spanish rule. This declaration led to many years of violence and rebellion, which finally ended in 1826. The fires of independence were fueled by the scandalous governor Carrasco (a Spanish official mired in a conspiracy to steal smuggled goods) and a growing trend of independence throughout the Americas.
In Chile, independence is celebrated with national parties, which can sometimes last for a week. Parades and festivals heavily feature food—especially traditional Chilean food like empanadas, alfajores, and chica. The national rodeo finals are held in Rancagua, while kites fly high over Antofagasta. It is required that a flag fly over every public building.
Vanuatu (July 30, 1980)
Vanuatu is an archipelago comprised of 83 island in the South Pacific, which had been under joint rule of the British and French until the early 1980s. The New Hebrides, as they were called then, were used for military bases in World War II, which sparked nationalistic sentiments. Vanuatu’s first political party was created in 1970 and after a decade of pushing for independence, it was declared at the end of July.
Independence celebrations can often last a week and include flag hoistings, military parades and parties including music, dancing, magic men, and local food and drink. Among these refreshments, kava features heavily—it’s a drink made from kava roots that has alcoholic and/or narcotic effects.
Australia (January 26, 1788)
While technically not a celebration of independence (Australia is still a commonwealth of Great Britain), Australia Day is the nation’s holiday, celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet on the shores of Sydney, and start of British sovereignty.
All states and territories have participated in Australia Day festivities since the early 1990s. The day is marked by barbecues, festivals and parades, as in so many national holidays. The infamous boat races in Sydney Harbor take place on Australia day, while a cricket match is played each year in Adelaide. On the eve of the holiday, government addresses are made and the Australian of the Year Award is presented to a citizen who has shown “a significant contribution to the Australian community and nation.” Citizenship ceremonies are also commonly held on the day.
Despite the general revelry, Australia Day may still hold bitter connotations for some Australians—particularly the Indigenous Australians who see it as the anniversary of “Invasion Day.”
Indonesia (August 17, 1945)
Though Indonesia pronounced its independence from the Netherlands on this date in 1945, it wasn’t until 1949 that the Dutch recognized the nation’s freedom, after four years of unrest. It wasn’t until 2005, however, that August 17th was recognized as the day of independence.
In the days and weeks leading up to the independence celebration, cities and towns are decorated with the national flag and buntings of red and white (the national colors). On the eve of the celebration, the president addresses the nation. In the morning, the day is kicked off with a flag hoisting ceremony, followed by parades in which high school students from around the country have been invited to participate. Local parades, games and both eating and cooking contests are held—and don’t forget about Panjat Pinang, a contest in which participants must climb a greased Areca palm tree.
India (August 15, 1947)
India gained independence from Britain after many years of the Independence Movement, marked in large part by nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. The first Prime Minister marked the occasion by hosting the nation’s flag over the Red Fort, a moment that is reenacted each year by the current Prime Minister after their national address. After the flag is raised in Delhi, a twenty-one gun salute is made.
Kite flying is an important activity in India on independence day, as the kites symbolize India’s free spirit and freedom. National flags are in abundance and many people adorn themselves with the three colors (white, orange and green).
Ghana (March 6, 1957)
When Ghana declared its independence from Britain, it made history as the first sub-Saharan nation to win liberation. After the “Big Six” leaders of Ghana formed the United Gold Coast Convention in 1947, and the Convention People’s Party was formed in 1949, the first general elections were held in 1951. The CPP won by a landslide and leader Kwame Nkrumah became the country’s first Prime Minister in 1957.
Today, the country celebrates with festivals, music, and cultural exhibitions of traditional dance. The President makes a speech on behalf of the government and school children participate in parades nationwide.
France (July 14, 1789)
Unlike many countries’ independence days, Bastille Day marks independence not from a colonizing country, but from France itself. Bastille Day commemorates the storming of a major French fortress and prison at the start of the French Revolution—the civil rebellion against the Bourbon monarchy. One year later, on July 14, 1790, Fete de la Federation was held to celebrate the new Republic of France.
Bastille Day was declared a national holiday in 1880, and a military parade has been held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris ever since then, with the exception of the years during World War II. In recent years, it has become common to invite military units from France’s allies to the parade as well—in 2013 Malian soldiers opened the parade. Spectacular fireworks displays are common, as are dances, balls, and communal meals. Bastille Day is even celebrated in other countries, like India, Belgium, and even certain cities in the US (looking at you, New Orleans).
England (November 5, 1605)
While not at all a celebration of independence, Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, as it is known in Great Britain, is a commemoration of the failed Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy to assassinate the Protestant King and blow up Parliament. Despite origins in an attempted act of terrorism, and real anti-Catholic sentiments, Brits “remember, remember the fifth of November” with fireworks displays throughout the country.
We wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July! #America
Bridget Thoreson is a writer and editor in New York City. Her interests vary widely, but she lives for traveling, snacking, reading, daydreaming, and making lists.