6 National and Independence Days You Won’t Want to Miss

By Kaitlyn Webster, Marketing Associate

On the 4th of July, Americans celebrate their freedom and their country with BBQ’s, parades, and parties. Flags are waved and hot dogs are eaten, all leading up to the requisite fireworks show, happening in cities all over the U.S. But how do other countries celebrate their independence days? Many ISA study abroad locations have their own celebrations of freedom you can partake in during your time abroad. From Bastille Day in France to Chile’s Fiesta Patrias, here’s an inside look at six independence and national days around the world and how they are celebrated.

Australia Day

January 26th is a significant date in Australia’s history, but it wasn’t officially celebrated as “Australia Day” until 1994. What started as a celebration for emancipated convicts evolved into a day celebrating the nation’s diverse people. However, because the date marks the country’s colonization back in 1788, many Aboriginal tribes feel the holiday excludes them, but in recent years, efforts have been made to include all Australians, such as raising both the Australian flag and the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Australia Day is a big deal, so expect festivities and fun in every ISA study abroad city in the country. Sydney has boat races, Adelaide has parades and fireworks, while approximately 13,000 people become Australian citizens on this day. There’s plenty to do, so don’t miss out!

Independence Day (Argentina)

In Argentina, Independence Day is always celebrated on July 9th, or 9 de julio. It was on this day in 1816 — after Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo — that Argentina was finally able to free itself from Spanish rule. Unlike the U.S. and many other countries, Argentina’s Independence Day isn’t so much a spectacle as it is a day to spend time with family or close friends, eating local delicacies like pastelitos, a fried pastry typically stuffed with jam or sweet potato. A mass is given at the Cathedral, which the President of Argentina will attend and local cafes will serve goodies like churros and hot chocolate.

Bastille Day parade in Paris.

Bastille Day/La Fête Nationale (France)

Like the 4th of July in the U.S., Bastille Day is France’s biggest party of the year. Fireworks, parades, and parties will be put on to celebrate the beginning of France’s Revolution back in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille. The Bastille was an infamous prison, housing political prisoners and gunpowder, weapons, and other supplies critical to the revolutionaries. The taking of the Bastille was a key event that helped spark the French revolution on July 14, 1789, which is why le 14 juillet (July 14th) remains a public holiday over two hundred years later. Every year, one of the world’s oldest military parades will take place in Paris on the Champs-Elysées (pictured above) as France celebrates Bastille Day.

Fiesta Patrias (Chile)

Chile’s most important party of the year is also one of its biggest parties of the year. On September 18, 1810, Chile broke free of Spanish rule after almost three hundred years of colonization. Chile’s Fiesta Patrias, or national parties begin on September 18th, el Dieciocho. On this day in 1810, Chile declared their First Governing Body, paving the way for independence. Festivities continue the next day, September 19th, “The Day of the Glories of the Army” and can last all week long. Fiesta Patrias are celebrated with barbecues, parades, and Cueca, the official dance of the holiday. Of course, Fiesta Patrias is also the prime time to enjoy Chilean delicacies, like Empanadas de pino, fried pastry filled with ground beef, onion, a hard-boiled egg, raisins, and olives.

Traditional dancers at an Independence Day parade in Costa Rica.

Independence Day (Costa Rica)

Costa Rica celebrates its independence from Spain throughout the month of September, but especially on September 15th, its official Independence Day. Unlike the U.S, Costa Rica shares its Independence Day with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. There was no fight for its independence back in 1821, due to Spain’s resources being so depleted after their war with Napoleon Bonaparte. Nonetheless, Costa Rica’s Independence Day is a big deal for locals. The festivities begin with the arrival of the independence torch, which travels from Guatemala to Cartago, carried across Central America by relay runners. It arrives in Costa Rica’s colonial capital on September 14th. That night, schoolchildren across the country participate in the annual March of the Lanterns, followed by parades and more festivities the next day.

Freedom Day (South Africa)

The most recently created independence day on this list is Freedom Day in South Africa. April 27th marks the day in 1994 when the first post-apartheid, democratic election was held in the country. It also signifies the end of over 300 years of colonization, white minority rule, and segregation. Needless to say, it was a turning point in the country’s history which is why Freedom Day is celebrated each year. If you’re studying abroad with ISA in Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, consider celebrating this day by learning more about South Africa’s history. Take a trip out to Robben Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years, or visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg to gain a deeper understanding of the Apartheid. Freedom Day in South Africa isn’t so much a day for parties and fireworks as it is a day to remember what South Africa went through to get where it is today.

If you’re interested in studying abroad, ISA can help you get started.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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