Freedom: 7 Countries on 4 Continents Who Celebrate their Independence

Photo by Colin Knowles

Independence Day is a massive event where I live in the United States. The fourth of July is a day for family, barbeques, and fireworks. Red, white, and blue clothing and décor litter the stores in the coming weeks, and American flags seem to be everywhere. With so much patriotism overcoming the nation, it is easy to forget that we are not the only country that has overcome unfair leadership or the control of a foreign power.

There are more countries with their own day celebrating liberation than I can reasonably detail here, but in light of the fourth of July, I want to highlight 7 countries from 4 continents who celebrate their independence. Many countries listed here are still facing conflicts resulting from the dates they celebrate, but it is important to highlight these locations and understand what they are fighting for.


South Africa – Freedom Day (April 27, 1994)

Photo by Government ZA

This is the most recent celebration on this list. Freedom Day celebrates the election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, which marks the end of the Apartheid. It was the first time that non-whites were allowed voting rights in the country, which resulted in the country’s first black president. Freedom Day marks the end of a 300-year colonial rule suppressing the rights of the majority population.

Freedom Day has a huge link to the history of the country. While celebrations like parades and parties may be held, the most common activities revolve around bringing families together and visiting important historic landmarks. Places like Robben Island—where Mandela was held as a political prisoner—history museums, and the Nelson Mandela capture site are popular attractions.

While Freedom Day marks a massive step in the right direction for South Africa, the country still struggles with discrimination and prejudice. UnFreedom Day is somewhat of a counter-holiday which highlights the poverty and inequality still plaguing the nation.

Sources: /


Israel – Yom Ha’atzmaut (May 14, 1948 – Observed 5th day of the month of Iyar)

Israel is the only holiday on this list that does not follow the Gregorian Calendar. Rather, Yom Ha’autzmaut falls on the 5th day of Iyar, usually in April but it sometimes falls in May. This marks the day of the formal establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was recognized by countries like the United States and the Soviet Union, but not by nearby Middle-Eastern nations and led to the start of the War on Palestine. The celebration immediately follows Israel’s memorial holiday for fallen soldiers, as these very soldiers are to thank for their independence.

Photo by Luchobrasla

Immediately after Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), the evening begins with the raising of the Israeli flag to half-mass, and then the president gives a speech.  There is then a small military parade which is followed by a torch-lighting ceremony to celebrate the country’s accomplishments. The remainder of the celebrations are less uniform with shows, dancing, street parties, picnics, and a number of variable activities occurring through the evening and coming days. The celebration concludes with the Israeli prize award ceremony to recognize the contributions made by the Israeli people.

Sources: /

The Philippines – Independence Day (June 12, 1898)

Photo by Riza Joy Martin

The Philippines rather unironically shared its Independence Day date with the very nation they were liberated from up until 1964—The United States. While July 4th is still a national holiday in the Philippines, it is no longer recognized as their official Independence Day. Rather, the Philippines recognizes independence from the Spanish Empire in 1898. On June 12th of that year, Emilio Aguinaldo and the rebels he led officially declared independence. Shortly after, the United States annexed the Philippines.

Independence Day in The Philippines is a national celebration, wherein most businesses close to enjoy the festivities. There are parades held on the day, and many families spend the day in the park to celebrate. The international Philippine community also celebrates this holiday, with parades being held in cities like New York as well.

Sources; / /,the%20government%2C%20and%20the%20citizens

Taiwan – Double Ten Day/National Day (October 10, 1911)

 Double Ten, held on the 10th of October, marks the day of the Wuchang Uprising which established a Republic after the overthrow of the Chinese emperor. After the republican forces of the KMT were defeated by the communist regime in Mainland Chinese, the KMT were forced to flee to the island of
Taiwan and reestablish the Republic of China as an island nation. They brought this holiday with them, as a reminder of their fight for a republic.

Taiwan celebrates National Day like many other countries do: with a large military parade, concerts, and massive fireworks displays. They also celebrate the many cultures that make up the diverse nation with aboriginal dances, concerts, and activities.

To learn more about Taiwan’s history, check out Taiwan: A New History



France – Bastille Day ( July 14, 1789)

Photo by Irene

Not all days of liberation are from a foreign power. For France, their independence is celebrated on the day of the fall of the Bastille: A prison fortress which held citizens and political criminals, many of whom were there by direct order of the king. On July 14th, the prison was overtaken after the guards refused to give up ammunitions to an angry mob. This event was the start of the French Revolution, which ultimately led to the overthrow of a corrupt king.

The Celebration begins with a torchlight parade on the evening of July 13th. The next morning , church bells or gun fire ring out to symbolize the beginning of the military parade. The day progresses with a luncheon, games, song and dance, and ends with fireworks in the evening.

Sources: /

Ukraine – Independence Day (August 24, 1991)

Photo by Ввласенко

Ukrainian tensions with Russia are in full swing as war rages within the country, but that only makes this even more important to highlight. Let’s not forget Ukraine’s battle for independence and why they continue to defend their nation.

If you want to learn more about Ukraine’s history with Russia, check this book out:

Ukraine’s independence is much more recent than many on this list. While Ukraine has always been culturally unique, in 1990 the country still fell under U.S.S.R. rule. They have often been under the rule of foreign nations including Russia, Poland, and Turkey to name a few. The U.S.S.R. Fell in 1990, which resulted in a declaration of sovereignty in Ukraine on July 16. However, it wasn’t until a year later when an attempt to restore Soviet rule in Russia failed and a fear of Communist Russian rule returning set in that the Ukraine officially declared independence on August 24th.

Much like the United States, the Ukrainian flag floods the streets of Ukraine during the celebration. Kyiv is the center point of the celebration ,with the capitol city having a much more important role to play in the celebration than that of many other independent nations.  The celebration begins with a speech from the president, followed by the raising of the flag. Other events include fairs, feasts, and concerts to celebrate Ukrainian culture

Sources: /

North America

Mexico – Día de la Independencia (September 16, 1810)

Many people seem to think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s celebration of independence, but it is actually September 16. This marks the day that Miguel Hidalgo, a catholic priest, rang the church bells and gave his powerful speech to call for Mexican independence. The event is knowns as the Grito de Delores, and it was the beginning of an 11 year war for independence.

Photo by Eneas de Troya

The morning typically begins with the bells of the church being rang, followed by a speech from the president. Celebrations include fireworks, fiestas, food, dance ,and music. The Mexican flag plays a huge role in the celebration, with flowers in Mexico’s colors on full display. Typically, there is a chant of the president’s choosing, such as “viva la independencia” along with various other noisemakers like whistles and horns.

Sources: /


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
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11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.