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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.