On Monday, Americans will celebrate the 235th anniversary of the declaration of our independence, and the birth of the GREATEST NATION ON EARTH, with unique, time-honored traditions. These customs say a lot about us as a country, as do the traditions of other free nations. Let’s look at a few such celebrations around the world and what they can teach us.
Bastille Day – July 14th
What it is: Bastille Day marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution, which is considered the birth of modern France.
How it’s celebrated: In the morning, a large military parade marches through Paris. Originally, the parade included only the French military, but in recent years their allies started to participate. In 2007, they went so far as to invite a German brigade to lead the whole thing. After the parade, the day is spent picnicking with family while dining on quiche, cheese, fruit, wine and other foods mentioned in Ratatouille.
What it says about them: Despite the lessons of history, the French still don’t mind seeing other countries’ militaries parading through their capital, even countries who have paraded through the capital in a slightly different context.
There’s a reasonable chance they’ll be invaded again by an opposing army that sneaks their troops in during the parade, like a rogue, militaristic Ferris Bueller.
St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th
What it is: St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday, which celebrates the introduction of Catholicism into Ireland. The date has, however, become Ireland’s “national day,” since the exact details of Ireland’s quest for independence are…tricky.
How it’s celebrated: Like all Catholic holidays, the day begins with mass. From there, though, it goes in a slightly more drunk direction. Lent’s restrictions on food and drinking are lifted, allowing revelers to enjoy all the whiskey and salted meats their systems can handle, all while wearing green, watching parades and sloppily ordering strangers to kiss them based on their heritage.
What it says about them: The Irish are really the best at combining Catholic guilt and sin in a way that guarantees their churches will always be well attended. Nothing follows a national bender like a national morning of greasy breakfasts and confession.
Canada Day – July 1
What it is: July 1 marks the anniversary of the day Canada politely asked Britain for its independence. The empire, having previously forgotten Canada was still on its books, agreed.
How it’s celebrated: Barbecues, picnics, parades, free concerts and ceremonies to welcome new citizens. The day has caused a bit of tension in Quebec, where it’s often overshadowed by Quebec’s own national holiday on June 24th and where it conflicts with Moving Day, which is apparently a real thing where everyone’s leases end on the same day so they play a province-wide version of musical apartments.
What it says about them: Canadians are a welcoming, low-key people who can forget to celebrate their own independence due to scheduled moving plans.
Fourth of July
What it is: The anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence. It’s actually two days after the Continental Congress voted on a resolution of independence, but the Declaration took two extra days of debate and revision before it was ready. People lament this country’s bureaucracy, but we’ve always been real sticklers for getting the necessary approvals.
How we celebrate: The day is typically spent at barbecues, picnics or festivals, buying red, white and blue paraphernalia and eating fried things on sticks. At night, our collective eyes turn to the heavens and the increasingly elaborate fireworks displays that have cost many great men their fingers.
What this says about us: Americans love watching shit blow up. And while we value our freedom, all of our citizens are expected to enjoy it – even those that are rightfully scared, like babies or dogs. Have you ever seen a parent drag a young, crying child to see the fireworks and look embarrassed as they try to console their panicked offspring? As though the fact that their child didn’t come out of the womb enjoying brightly colored BOOMs means that the parent somehow managed to give birth to an illegal alien.
In the end, there’s a lot of consistency across independence celebrations around the world. Free people like to drink, eat outside, watch parades and see explosions. And personally, I look forward to the day when every person, no matter their country of origin or circumstances of their birth, has to sit through a local news story about someone getting wasted and blowing off their hand with illegal fireworks. And as they call that one-handed drunk an idiot and change the channel, they’ll know what it is to be free.