Americans have their fireworks, barbecues, and parades. But citizens from other countries, by climbing greased palm trees to get a TV or engaging in competitive kite-flying, demonstrate their own unique traditions as they celebrate their nation's independence.
July 14 commemorates the storming of Bastille, a prison in Paris, which initiated the French Revolution in 1789. During Bastille Day, it is customary for firefighters to organize dance parties. The French president may pardon prisoners. And the more traditional military parades, festivals, and fireworks also fill the day’s activities. Often occurring during the Tour de France, French riders ardently strive to claim the stage victory this day for their native land.
Canadians celebrate their independence on July 1 in a manner comparable to the United States with parades, concerts, ceremonies, and fireworks. But their independence day – Canada Day – does not represent a definitive date of complete independence. The British North America Act established the federal government of Canada on July 1, 1867 and united the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec. But the British continued to maintain some influence until the Constitution Act of 1982.
Sept. 16 commemorates the first proclamation of independence in 1810 at the onset of Mexico's (then New Spain's) 10-year war with Spain. The celebration begins at 11 p.m. on Sept. 15 when the president rings the historic liberty bell. Then he gives the "El Grito," shouting "Mexicanos, Viva Mexico." The crowd echoes back and then sings the national anthem. This commemorates the call for freedom made by the Catholic priest Hidalgo after ringing the church bell to gather the local poor indians and mestizos to rise up against the privileged Spanish. On Sept. 16, there are rodeos, bullfights, parades, and traditional Mexican dances. The climax of the celebration occurs at Zócalo, the main plaza in Mexico City. Throughout the month of September – called Mes de la Patria (month of our nation) – restaurants serve traditional Mexican dishes.
Like the Mexicans, Peruvians begin their celebration on the night before their independence day, playing folk and Creole music in public plazas and parks. At sunrise on July 28, 21 cannons sound off during the ceremonial raising of the flag. Throughout the country, Peruvians engage in three festivals that are fundamental to Creole culture: cockfighting, bullfighting, and Peruvian paso horse exhibitions.
Australia Day commemorates the establishment of the first British settlement in Australia on January 26, 1788. Records of celebration date back to 1808, with the first official event in 1818. In Sydney, popular events include a ferry race, a surfing race, and a tall ships race. Fireworks are also common, with the largest event – Lotterywest Skyworks along the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia – that has offered fireworks launched from skyscrapers, moving boats, and bridges.
Aug. 15 represents the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The prime minister's speech in New Delhi from the Red Fort, which had been the headquarters of the British Indian Army, represents the peak of festivities. Flag-hoisting ceremonies occur in state capitals, schools, and individual homes. Throughout the country, a popular tradition of flying kites has emerged and has actually become quite competitive as children and adults try to make each others kites fall to the ground or cut each others' kite strings.
The president and his cabinet pay homage to those who fought for their country's independence at a flag-raising and lowering ceremony on Aug. 17, the date when Indonesian independence was initially declared in 1945. The Dutch finally recognized Indonesian independence in 1949. Indonesians drape their capital city of Jakarta in the national colors of red and white. And various non-competitive sporting matches are commonly played this day. These include krupuk (shrimp chips) eating contests, a sack race called balap karung, and the popular game panjat pinang, which involves climbing palm trees greased with clay and oil to hopefully win a prize (such as a bike or TV) hung from the tree. Indonesians also use this time to clean, repaint, and improve their local neighborhoods in preparation for their Independence Day.