Flying flags, tucking into sweetmeats, parades, singing national anthems, fireworks in the air—freedom gives everyone a reason to party. Independence Days are a official public holiday in most countries, with government offices, banks and schools enjoying a day off throughout nations.
In most countries, it commemorates the date on which the country overcame an occupier and declared a new and free nation. Celebrated with a variety of festivities that vary according to the customs and traditions of the country, Independence Day is also a day when citizens get an opportunity to collectively remember its symbolism and nationalistic values and the sacrifices the nation’s founders made.
In most places leaders had to face a difficult struggle that gave birth to their modern country. While some countries attach religious significance to their independence day, for many nations, it is a secular ceremony that each and every citizen participates in together.
Whether it’s waving flags and dancing in the streets of Lahore, or flying kites on rooftops in New Delhi, the celebration of Independence Day is a powerful reminder of the enduring love for freedom, togetherness and self-destiny for people of one country. In Asia, August is a pretty special time, and there are several nations celebrating their Independence Day in this month. Pakistan, S. Korea, India, and Indonesia celebrate their Independence in succession, one after the other on August 14, 15 and 17.
It’s all green in Pakistan on August 14
More than 90 years of British rule ended in the Indian sub-continent when the partition of India took place in 1947, and self-governing countries of Pakistan and India came into existence. Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day a day earlier on August 14 to allow the British viceroy, Lord (Louis) Mountbatten, to grace the ceremony in India on the following day, August 15.
Independence Day dawns in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with special prayers in mosques for prosperity and progress in the nation. In the capital, Islamabad, 31 artillery guns boom to commence the celebrations. Buildings are brightly illuminated with fairy lights, national flags, banners and balloons in green and white colours.
Colourful rallies, folk dances and processions on the street are carried out in all small and major towns and cities. Children and women wear their finest green costumes. Women apply intricate henna designs in their hands, while young boys and girls get their faces painted in green and white.
Bring on the whites in South Korea on August 15
White symbolizes light and purity. South Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule on August 15, 1945, and this day is revered each year as Korea’s National Liberation Day. 35 years of Japanese occupation in Korea ended when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, thus forcing Japan to surrender. Three years hence South Korea established its own government when Syngman Rhee was sworn in as the first President of South Korea on August 13, 1948.
On this public holiday, people come together to enjoy the festivity. Parades are held. The national flag called Taegukki is hoisted in order to show respect to the heroes of the country who gave their lives in order for Korea to be a free nation. Taegukki is hung outside homes and buildings, with citizens singing “Restoration of Light.” Free visits are allowed to public museums for the families of independence activists.
An official ceremony that includes special traditional performances, crafts and cultural exhibits is held in the presence of the president at the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan, in the South Chungcheong Province. Wearing white, citizens in Seoul assemble at Sejong Center for the performing arts and spend moments reminiscing and enacting scenes that took place during World War II, such as war scenes and other social situations like wedding celebrations during war time.
There’s saffron, white and green in the air in India on August 15
Men and women from all over India came together to fight for freedom from British colonial rule, which was obtained in 1947. On August 15, the Prime Minister of India unfurls the tricoloured flag—saffron, white and green at Red Fort in the country’s capital, New Delhi. A salutation of 21 guns follows. Families and friends get together in the afternoon for lavish feasts complete with delicious sweets in different colours.
Schools, homes and institutions conduct flag hoisting ceremonies, sing patriotic songs and recall the difficult but worthy beginnings of India. Fireworks, parades and concerts are a part of the celebrations, but the kite flying competitions are perhaps one of the most beautiful and significant expressions of the free spirit of the nation. Multi-coloured kites in different shapes and sizes float about high in the sky, controlled by glass-encrusted cotton thread which the owners use to fight friends or strangers. Very deftly, they coax their kites to reach across the sky in a way that the abrasive string cuts through the strings of other kites.
Paint the nation red and white in Indonesia on 17 August
On Indonesia’s Independence Day in 1949, the nation’s leaders Soekarno and Hatta announced freedom from the Dutch and Japanese authorities. Homes and streets are decorated with red and white flags, banners and ornaments, which represent the colours of the Indonesian flag.
This is a day for citizens of all ages, genders and religions to come together and make merry. Fun sports events like sack races and climbing palm trees that are greased with clay and oil and even competitions of eating kerupuk, which is the local variant of fish flavoured chips. Winners take away prizes like motorbikes or TV sets, or humbler gifts such as books or food, all of which are hung on a tree.
Others celebrate the Independence Day by praying to God in gratitude for freedom, called tasyakur in Bhasa or carry out a long march or carnival, wearing traditional dress. Charity fairs are held in which various traditional and modern foods, beverages and other items are sold.
From sombre days of remembrance to jubilant patriotic displays, Independence Days across the world mean more than just a day to celebrate—it is also a time when people all over the nation come together and contemplate the years that lie ahead.