Ok, so we’re partial to the 4th of July festivities here at home, but this year we thought we’d share some of the cool, fun and downright offbeat ways other countries celebrate their independence!
Mexico, Dia de la Independencia
So if you’re one of those Americans who thought Cinco de Mayo was Independence Day, we’re going to have to school you a bit here and rain on your parade. In fact, you’ll know it’s Independence Day in Mexico when you hear people taking to the streets to yell the “Grito de Dolores,” which is the traditional battle cry of Mexican independence from Spain. From sundown on the 15th to sundown on the 16th, the revelry is in full force, starting at the Zocalo in Mexico City (or other town squares around the country) and involving parades, concerts and, of course, fireworks!
Indonesia, Hari Kemerdekaan
Celebrating the end of 300 years of Dutch colonization, Hari Kemerdekaan is full of the typical independence day festivities like fireworks, parades and flag-waving, but one unique custom involves a game called Panjat Piang, where young men participate in pole-climbing contests to score various prizes on wheels at the top. The poles can reach some pretty death-defying heights and it’s a thrilling spectacle for everyone.
Israel, Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day)
May 14 (celebrated on various dates in April/May)
Celebrating the establishment of the State of Israel and the declaration of such by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, there’s typically some stuffy state-sponsored ceremonial officiousness to dispense with. But the real fun on Independence Day is in the streets (and rooftops) of Israel. Tel Aviv is famous for it’s rooftop parties, and there’s typically no end to the revelry on this special day. You can also participate in “street” and “park” raves that spring up all over the cityscape and of course, grab a grill and barbecue your favorite meats and veggies with locals in HaYarkon Park, a good place to perch and watch the evening fireworks.
India, Independence Day
To commemorate its freedom from British rule that ended not so long ago in 1947, India celebrates with the requisite flag-waving, parades and patriotic songs. But India also has a unique twist – on this day the skies are plastered with colorful kites of every size and color (the tradition derives from a freedom fighter protest in 1927). It makes for a festive and jubilant display (also fosters some competition, with people generally trying to knock each other’s kites out of the sky!) Indians also dine on dishes of orange, green and white – the hues of the flag, naturally!
Norway, Syttende Mai (Constitution Day)
Celebrating May 17 is all about one main activity in Norway – eating ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream (followed closely by eating sausage, sausage and more sausage! Norwegians celebrate the signing of their constitution in their typical low-key style, often hosting big “block party-style” potluck breakfasts for family and friends, and can also be found attending parades and watching fireworks.
South Africa, Freedom Day
Known as “Freedom Day” in South Africa, April 27 marks the end of Apartheid and the first free elections in the country (held in 1994), when Nelson Mandela was elected President. As expected, Freedom Day is an emotionally charged holiday with a lot of mixed emotions for many South Africans. Most choose to celebrate with friends and meals feature the braai (or roasted meats) – similar to what we call barbecue in the states.
France, Bastille Day
France really takes Bastille Day seriously – to the extent that you might have a hard time finding restaurants and shops open at all – yes, even in central Paris! It’s an official day off for all French citizens – you’ll likely find that places open for business are often run by immigrants (or cater almost exclusively to tourists). The day begins with a military parade down the Champs Elysees and doesn’t end until the fireworks at the Eifel Tower commence later that evening. You’ll find people partying all day – one fun tradition has local firehouses open their doors to the neighborhood and hosting raucous parties for all.
Australia, Australia Day
Aside from falling in a decidedly frosty month (for the northern hemisphere anyway), Australian Independence Day traditions look a lot like United States celebrations. All it takes is a barbecue, some fireworks and the beach (if you’re near one). Homesick Americans will fit right in during this particular celebration. You won’t want to miss the ship races and surf competitions that occur in harbours all over the country.