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Tomorrow, millions of Americans will light up the barbecue, set off pyrotechnics, and no doubt recite the greatest speech ever delivered by a sitting American president:
That said, the United States is far from the only country to celebrate its national holiday with food and fireworks.
Paris will be aglow on July 14 as the French commemorate the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Highlights of La Fête Nationale ("Bastille Day" to the rest of us) include fireworks above the Trocadéro and a 134-year-old military parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Bastille Day is one of many national holidays commemorating a revolution or unification.
But not all national holidays celebrate a nation's founding. For example, citizens of Thailand celebrate December 5, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The date is so revered that clashing factions last year declared a ceasefire in observance. The king, now 86, delivers an annual birthday address and is honored with fireworks, parades, and military displays.
Although citizens of Portugal observe April 25 in remembrance of the 1974 Carnation Revolution that deposed dictator Estado Novo, their official national holiday is Portugal Day on June 10. The date marks the anniversary of beloved poet Luís de Camões' death and is celebrated because date of his birth is unknown. Portugal Day is a celebration of Portuguese culture both in the Iberian nation as well as for emigres around the world.
What's the Big Idea?
Max Fisher over at VOX has created a map of the world detailing the nature of each nation's national holiday. He notes that, since many countries are former European colonies, the majority of these holidays celebrate a form of national independence. These include most African and South American nations, as well as others like India (Independence Day on August 15), Sweden (National Day on June 6), and Mexico (which celebrates its independence on September 16 and not Cinco De Mayo, no matter how much drunk undergrads argue otherwise).
Two nations don't have official national holidays: Denmark and the UK. Fisher recalls an old joke: the UK doesn't need a national holiday because it's directly responsible for those of so many other countries.
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