Are you ready to celebrate the Fourth of July? Most families across the nation share similar traditions for this holiday. Who doesn’t have fond memories of family picnics and then waiting for nightfall to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display? Celebrating independence is a key element of our American culture. But America isn’t the only nation that celebrates its independence. Have you ever wondered how other nations celebrate their independence? Here are some Independence Day traditions from other nations.
Celebrating Independence in Mexico
Mexico’s united cry of Viva Mexico makes the nation stand out. Though many Americans are familiar with the text of our Declaration of Independence, those words never became a part of our traditions. The story of Mexico’s independence shows just how powerful such a declaration can be. In the little town of Dolores on September 16, 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo rang the church bell to summon the town. With a speech, he called the people to war. His speech sparked the war for independence against Spanish rule. The exact words of his speech are lost to time, but it’s now known as El Grito de Dolores—the Cry of Dolores. Today, El Grito officially begins Independence Day celebrations. The Mexican president reenacts El Grito, ringing a bell at the National Palace and reciting a version of Hidalgo’s words. At the end, crowds erupt in unison with ¡Viva México!
Learn more about Mexican Independence Day traditions!
Celebrating Independence in Malaysia
Like many other nations, Malaysia celebrates its independence with parades and fireworks, but it takes a different approach to the themes of its celebrations. As a nation made up of several different people groups, Malaysia can’t depend on similar ideologies to create unity in its people. Instead, it sets a new theme to focus on each year for its Hari Merdeka—Independence Day—on August 31. These themes often focus on Malaysia as a nation or on unifying values. Past themes have been “Because of You, Malaysia” (2000–2006), “Good Values Make a Successful Society” (1997), and “Together Towards Vision” (1993).
Celebrating Independence in Finland
We all know the story of Paul Revere’s ride and the significance of one or two lanterns, but in Finland, two candles in a window mean something entirely different. Before gaining independence, Finland was part of the Russian Empire. Even though the nation had its own government, it still suffered great oppression under the Russians. Traditionally, the people would place two candles in their windows as a silent protest against the empire.
However, the candles got a new meaning during World War I. Many young Finnish men traveled to Germany to volunteer for the German army. There, they would be trained as elite infantrymen called jägers. Since the journey from Finland to Germany was dangerous under Russian rule, families would offer the soldiers-to-be food and shelter by placing two candles in their windows. Even though the jägers weren’t able to return home until after Finland gained its independence on December 6, 1917, these expert soldiers made great contributions during the Finnish Civil War and later defended their country against the Soviet Union in 1939. Today, many of the Finish people still place candles in their windows in honor of those brave soldiers.
Learn more about the history of the jägers!
Do you know of any other Independence Day traditions from around the world?