Happy Independence Day: How 15 Different Countries Celebrate Their Independence


This Wednesday, Americans will don red, white, and blue, grill burgers, and blast fireworks all in order to celebrate the day we declared independence from the British.

Here are a few examples:

Since 1981, Belize has held “September Celebrations” to honor both its independence from the U.K. and The Battle of St. George’s Caye, a battle between invading Mexican forces and resident woodcutters in 1798. The celebrations are known to be unique for their mystique; the Queen of the Bay beauty pageant, a citizens’ parade, and carnival of wild costumes and dancing allow the country to celebrate its native Mestizo and Maya culture.

On September 7, Brazil celebrates its independence from Portugal in 1822. When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal in 1808, the Portuguese monarchs moved the court to Brazil and gave the colony more administrative independence. Eventually, Brazil refused to go back to colony status and declared independence.

Chile celebrates its independence from Spain on September 18, (the year they achieved  independence was 1810.) With food, music, parades, and historical reenactments, the country holds “national parties” that can last for weeks. The national rodeo finals are held in Rancagua, while thousands of people fly kites in Antofagasta.

On September 16, Mexico celebrates the “Grito de Dolores,” or cry for independence from Spain that marked the beginning of the Mexican War for Independence in 1810. Every September 15 at 11 p.m., the president of Mexico goes to the National Palace in the capital, rings a bell, makes a cry of patriotism, honors the war heroes, and shouts “Viva México!” from the balcony to the 500,000 people assembled in the plaza below. Everyone applauds and sings the national anthem; this ceremony is replicated around the country. Festivities continue the next day, including parades, marching band performances, concerts, and more.

Every March 6, Ghana celebrates independence from the British. Formerly the Gold Coast, Ghana won independence in 1957 making it the first sub-Saharan country to win liberation. The country celebrates with fireworks, parades, and marches. 

On May 31, 1910, South Africa declared independence from Britain. But the country celebrates April 27, the day in 1994 when the first democratic, non-racial elections were held. South Africans commemorate the restoration of dignity and human rights after a period of racism and apartheid.

To celebrate independence from British rule in 1947, India holds the “Fifteenth of August” national holiday. The country celebrates with flag-hoisting, parades, patriotic songs, and kite flying. In Delhi, the Prime Minister delivers a speech at Red Fort, a 17th-century complex that housed the Mughal emperors, who were exiled during British rule.

Burma celebrates its independence from the British. After the British shut down pre-war demands for self-rule, the Burma Independence Army formed in Japan and began to fight for the Axis powers. Eventually, they switched to the Allies’ side, but after the war declared independence. On January 4 every year, Burmese celebrate with sports activities and fairs.

On August 15, South Korea celebrates liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. The Japanese began to take control of the Korean peninsula in 1910, restricting political freedoms and trying to assimilate its economy and society into Japanese culture. Three years after Japanese surrender in 1945, South Korea established its own government. Today, South Koreans celebrate by hanging flags on their houses, making public museums free-of-charge to descendants of independence activists, and singing the official “Restoration of Light” song.  

Greece celebrates its independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821, with religious and secular parades and festivals.

On "Liberation Day," the Netherlands celebrates the end of Nazi Germany occupation in 1945. While on May 4, the country honors soldiers and citizens who died in wars in its history, on May 5 the Dutch celebrate freedom with festivals and a huge music event.

Poland celebrates its independence on November 11 to commemorate becoming a state again in 1918 after Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the territory. The Poles celebrate with parades, festivals, and outfits of red and white. The major event is in Warsaw's Pilsudski Square at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while Kraków holds a military parade and a Catholic mass burial. 

Armenia celebrates its independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 1991. Some say Armenia should celebrate May 28, 1918, instead, when the country regained independence after Ottoman rule and marked an important victory during the Armenian Genocide.

In Israel, Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates the state’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. An official ceremony at Mount Herzl, including a speech from the speaker of Israeli Parliament (Knesset), artistic performances, a flag of Israel, and ceremonial lighting of 12 torches for each Tribe of Israel, happens the night before. On the day of the celebrations, families gather for picnics and barbecues.

Syria’s Evacuation Day celebrates the exit of the last French soldier from Syria and the proclamation of full independence on April 17, 1946.