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In Paris, a fireworks display above the Eiffel Tower commemorates Bastille Day each year.
From the United States to South Korea, these countries have unique ways of observing Independence Day traditions.
Fireworks. Red, white, and blue everything. The sweet and smoky smell of barbecue. That’s Independence Day if you’re feeling patriotic in the United States. But what do Independence Day traditions look like around the world? We picked eight nations and explored what independence looks like to each.
When: July 1
The Essentials: The Canadian flag; picnic blankets; your best parade attire.
How to Celebrate: There isn’t one right way to celebrate Canada Day. Typically, revelers head to one of the many parades or carnivals across the country, have a picnic, watch fireworks, or catch free concerts in city centers. Any Canadian city is fair game on Canada Day, but Ottawa, Canada’s capital, has the most extensive event lineup. An annual favorite is the Snowbirds’ air show on Parliament Hill, where the Canadian Forces’ flight team puts on an aerial demonstration above Ottawa’s Peace Tower.
When: July 4
The Essentials: Burgers; hot dogs; picnic and barbecue gear; red, white, and blue attire.
How to Celebrate: A typical July Fourth celebration in the United States can involve a multitude of activities. Whether the day is spent exploring a county fair, floating on a tube down a river, endulging in all-American treats at a barbecue, or sipping beers at a rooftop bar, most U.S. Independence Day celebrations end with a magnificent fireworks display. New York City’s annual fireworks show (put on by Macy’s) attracts more than 3 million live spectactors and is considered the nation’s largest Independence Day celebration. San Francisco’s Pier 39 display and the fireworks spectacular at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. are also quintessential Fourth of July traditions in the United States.
When: July 14
The Essentials: More red, white, and blue (but leave the stars at home); dancing shoes.
How to Celebrate: In France, it’s Bastille Day, not “Independence Day.” The July 14th holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a revolutionary event that took place in Paris and marks the beginning of the 1789 French Revolution. Bastille Day traditions kick off with an annual military parade along Paris’s Champs-Elysées avenue, and after sundown, the sky above the iconic Eiffel Tower lights up with an out-of-this-world fireworks show. But the biggest celebrations occur from 9 p.m. to around 4 a.m., when fire stations open their doors to the public and host fund-raising dance parties for fire stations across France. This tradition, which started in 1937, is called a Firemen’s Ball.
When: August 15
The Essentials: A kite; the Indian flag; the eye of the tiger.
How to Celebrate: On Independence Day in India, the prime minister marks the country’s independence from British colonial rule by raising the Indian flag and delivering a speech at the Red Fort in Delhi. Later in the day, many people head to parks, rooftops, and other public spaces to fly kites, which are a national symbol of freedom across India.
When: August 15
The Essentials: A South Korean flag; your singing voice.
How to Celebrate: To celebrate Independence Day in South Korea, you’ll have to learn the country’s official name for the holiday, Gwangbokjeol, which translates to “restoration of the light.” Celebrations begin with an official ceremony at the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan during which the president speaks and the public sings the official Gwangbokjeol song. Much as how other countries commemorate Independence Day, buildings and homes across South Korea are encouraged to display the national flag, but the country also practices a less common tradition: Every year on the August 15th holiday, South Korea’s government grants special prison pardons to incarcerated citizens.
When: August 17
The Essentials: A few tall trees; the will to win; a good grip.
How to Celebrate: On Independence Day in Indonesia, it’s all about panjat pinang. This traditional game requires a tall nut tree, buckets of prizes, and a lot of oil. The tree trunks are cut and positioned vertically with prizes atop that are oiled up to make them slippery, hence harder to obtain. Players use each other’s bodies as stepping stools to climb toward the top of each structure in order to grab the goods.
When: January 26
The Essentials: Barbecued eats; beach gear; Aussie flag.
How to Celebrate: Australia Day falls in the Australian summer months, which means that across the country patriotric Aussies can be found “firing up the barbie” or “cracking open a slab” on the beach. (If the previous sentence is unclear to you, study up on these important Australian slang words to know before your trip.) In Melbourne, Australia Day celebrations entail a daylong celebration that includes a multicultural parade and a fireworks show. In Sydney, a fleet of ferries lines up in the morning for a race across the famous harbor.
When: March 6
The Essentials: Beach attire; dancing shoes; red, yellow, and green accessories.
How to Celebrate: Ghana was the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence from British colonial rule, so it’s fitting that the West African country celebrates this holiday in such a festive way. Ghana’s Independence Day celebration consists of a vibrant parade in the coastal capital, Accra, along with unofficial street festivals, beach parties, and a whole lot of traditional dancing.
This article originally appeared online in June 2015; it was updated on July 3, 2018, to include current information.
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