Tonight, 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, like the Fourth of July, is one of many national holidays commemorating a revolution or unification.
Yet not all national holidays celebrate a nation’s founding. For example, citizens of Thailand celebrate December 5th, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The date is so revered that clashing factions last year declared a ceasefire in observance. The king, now 87, delivers an annual birthday address and is honored with fireworks, parades, and military displays.
Although citizens of Portugal observe April 25th in remembrance of the 1974 Carnation Revolution that deposed the Estado Novo regime, their official national holiday is Portugal Day on June 10th. The date marks the anniversary of beloved poet Luís de Camões’ death and is celebrated because his date of birth is unknown. Portugal Day is a celebration of Portuguese culture both in the Iberian nation as well as for emigres around the world.
Last year, Max Fisher over at Voxcreated a map of the world detailing the nature of each nation’s national holiday. He noted 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 15th), Sweden (National Day on June 6th), and Mexico (which celebrates its independence on September 16th and not Cinco De Mayo, no matter how much drunk undergrads argue otherwise).
Two notable nations don’t actually celebrate an official national holiday: Denmark and the United Kingdom. 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. As for Denmark, let’s just say that every day is a national holiday when you enjoy the highest quality of life in the world.
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