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  • The Curious Traveler

7 World-wide National Celebrations

All around the world, festivities are held commemorating independence or another important national event. Many people around the world may be familiar with America’s July 4th Independence Day holiday, but how much do we know about similar celebrations around the world? We’re always curious about other cultures, so we looked into it and discovered there are a lot of similarities!

Named Northern Rhodesia as a British colony, Zambia declared its independence on October 24, 1964. Festivities last for two days all over the country. Youth organizations, labor unions, and military personnel march in parades, and there are tribal dance performances and youth gymnastics exhibitions. The final game of the Independence Soccer Trophy is held as well, so there’s a lot to celebrate.

Cambodia declared independence from France in 1953 and celebrates Independence Day on November 9. The Independence Monument in the capital city of Phnom Penh is the epicenter of the festivities with a formal ceremony followed by a parade with floats and marching bands. At night people watch the fireworks displays from the riverbanks near the Royal Palace. 

Independence Monument, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo credit: Thoursc

After three hundred years of Spanish rule, Peru declared independence in 1821 and celebrates over a two-day period, one for the proclamation of independence on July 28 and one to honor the military and national police. Peruvians get into the spirit the night before with local music events, but officially, the festivities kick off in the capital of Lima with gun salutes and a flag-raising ceremony. The next day hundreds of people participate in the military parade, which can last for several hours.

Italy holds their Republic Day on June 2, which commemorates the result of the 1946 referendum to choose between a republican form of government or a monarchy. Shortly after the results were announced that Italy was to be a republic, the royals were exiled (the exile was lifted in 2002). Traditionally the day starts with a wreath-placing ceremony on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome. Then a large military parade snakes its way through the city culminating with a colorful jet flyby. 

Photo credit: Anthony Majanlahti

On August 15, 1947, India officially gained independence from Britain after three hundred years. They celebrate Independence Day with flag-raising ceremonies, parades, singing, flying patriotic kites, and wearing the national colors of saffron, white, and green. The Prime Minister gives a “state-of-the-country” speech at the Red Fort, which is followed by the singing of the national anthem and a military parade.

Costa Rica holds its Independence Day on September 15, as does Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The night prior, a torch is carried through those countries by a network of students and relay runners. When the torch crosses into Costa Rica, people come into the streets to sing the national anthem together. Parades and traditional music and dance performances take place all over the country, and children create and display paper lanterns or faroles at a nighttime parade. 

Iceland celebrates their National Day on June 17, which commemorates independence from Danish rule in 1944. Perhaps one of the most extensive celebrations of all (especially for such a small country), Icelanders organize parades of marching bands and color guards, give speeches and poetry readings, wear traditional clothing, and hold fairs with music, balloons, street theater, concerts, dancing, games, puppet shows, and circus performances. The Icelanders definitely know how to celebrate! 

Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson


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