5 Notable Independence Day Celebrations Around the World

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The Fourth of July 2016 marks the 240th anniversary of America’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. But while the U.S. celebration of Independence Day is a uniquely American holiday filled with red-white-and-blue patriotism, it is only one of scores of similar days celebrated in countries around the world. Many other nations also celebrate their split from the UK (long before the much-heralded Brexit, the British were quite comfortable with controlling other people, including those 13 colonies, from afar). Other nations included below celebrate their freedom from other outside powers. No matter the specifics, independence is always a good thing.

 

5. Brazil

Brazil’s Presidential Guard marches in a military parade as part of the country’s independence celebration. © Agência Brasil

On Sept. 7, 1822, Brazil declared its independence from Portugal, ending 322 years of colonial rule. Lavish military parades are held throughout the country on Sept. 7 each year to celebrate the occasion. Yet the celebration has spread far beyond Brazil’s borders. Each year, Brazilian Day celebrations are held around the globe. The celebration in New York City has reportedly drawn crowds of more than 1 million each year.

 

4. India

The national flag flies high above the Red Fort in Delhi on India’s Independnce Day. The flag raising is one of the central themes of the day’s celebration. © Dennis Jarvis

The national flag flies above the Red Fort in Delhi on India’s Independence Day. The flag raising is one of the central events of the day’s celebration. © Dennis Jarvis

Imagine if each year on the Fourth of July, the U.S. president raised an American flag above the White House to celebrate the country’s independence. That’s essentially what happens in India every Aug. 15, as the country’s prime minister raises the Indian national flag above Delhi’s Red Fort. The action commemorates the date in 1947 when India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, raised a flag above the fort to mark the nation’s independence from British rule.

 

3. Israel

Israel Defense Forces jets fly over Tel Aviv during the country’s Independence Day celebration in 2011. © Israel Defense Forces

Israel Defense Forces jets fly over Tel Aviv during the country’s Independence Day celebration in 2011. © Israel Defense Forces

Israelis mark their Independence Day each year on a day between April 15 and May 15, depending upon the Hebrew calendar. The celebration marks the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Known as Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israelis mark the day with concerts, fireworks and prayer. The prime minister also honors dozens of the country’s top soldiers at his private residence. Aircraft from the Israel Defense Forces also fly over the country in celebration.

 

2. Mexico

The Mexican flag flies over a Cancun sunset. © Hendrik Terbeck

The Mexican flag flies over a Cancun sunset. © Hendrik Terbeck

Beer companies, Mexican restaurants and other corporations have helped turn the Mexican celebration of Cinco de Mayo (May 5) into a festive occasion in the U.S. But contrary to popular belief, that is not Mexico’s Independence Day. That date falls on Sept. 16 each year. On that date in 1810, a Mexican priest named Miguel Hidalgo uttered an epic speech that inspired his countrymen to drive out Spanish rulers. Although scholars differ on the exact wording of the speech, known as Grito de Dolores, Hidalgo said something like this: “My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen 300 years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once … Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government!” Those are fighting words, to be sure, worthy of celebration … and a cerveza toast.

 

1. Canada

Fireworks light up the sky in Ottawa for the celebration of Canada Day. © Joel Bedford

Fireworks light up the sky in Ottawa for the celebration of Canada Day. © Joel Bedford

Each July 1, Canadians celebrate the date in 1867 when the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united into a new kingdom known as Canada. Originally known as Dominion Day, it wasn’t until the 1980s that many Canadians began referring to the celebration as Canadian Day. And it took funding from the federal government to help make celebrations of this event popular throughout the country.

 

One More: Afghanistan

Afghanis stand at attention for the Afghan national anthem during an Afghanistan Independence Day celebration in Kabul. USAF/Master Sgt. Michael O'Connor

Afghanis stand at attention for the Afghan national anthem during an Afghanistan Independence Day celebration in Kabul. USAF/Master Sgt. Michael O’Connor

Afghanis celebrate their independence each Aug. 19, but there’s a twist. That date commemorates the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi (aka the Anglo-Afghan Treaty), which granted Afghanistan independence from the UK — even though the country was never officially part of the British Empire. In effect, the treaty promised British India would never extend beyond the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

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