This Saturday, most of us will be barbequing, lighting sparklers, and then packing up our coolers and camp chairs to go watch the fireworks. It’s a time-tested American tradition on the occasion of our nation’s independence from Britain—and it’s also a complete blast. If you can’t wait till next July to celebrate again, consider traveling abroad to experience another country’s independence day. We can’t promise any red, white, and blue cupcakes, but the experience will be hard to beat. Here are the top 4 countries (besides the US, of course) with the most exciting independence days.
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day, though this is a common belief. Mexico’s independence is actually celebrated on September 16, the anniversary of the proclamation of the Mexican War of Independence. The party kicks off on the evening of September 15, when the president of Mexico rings the palace bell in Mexico City’s main plaza, which is packed with up to a half-million attendees who cheer him on and then sing the national anthem. A massive parade begins the following morning, beginning in the square and passing through some of Mexico City’s grandest streets.
If the crowds of the capital are too much for you, celebrate the 16th in one of Mexico’s smaller towns instead. Whichever town you visit, you can look forward to concerts, street fairs, and smaller parades, not to mention the opportunity to snack on an incredible range of street food.
July 14, Bastille Day, marks the beginning of the French Revolution and the eventual overthrow of the monarchy. This holiday is celebrated everywhere from London to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but nothing beats experiencing it at its source: Paris. The Champs Elysees, decorated in the national colors, plays host to a massive military parade complete with fighter jets zipping by overhead. In the evening, crowds shift to the Eiffel Tower to watch fireworks against one of the most beautiful backdrops unimaginable. Other scenic towns in France to watch the celebrations are Annecy, in the French Alps, and Carcassonne, a walled Medieval city in the south.
Peru remembers its independence from Spain with not one, not two, but three days of celebrations. Together, the three days are known as “Fiestas Patrias.” The first day, June 24, honors the nation’s farmers, while the second, July 28, is dedicated to the memory of its most famous freedom fighter. July 29, day three, celebrates the nation’s military.
Fiestas Patrias is Peru’s biggest holiday besides Christmas, and it shows: school and work are out, the flag is hanging everywhere, and Lima’s main thoroughfares are closed to make way for a massive parade of the armed forces. And across the country, people are gathering in parks and plazas to play music and dance, attending livestock fairs, and throwing festivals that feature horse shows, street food, and bullfighting—a cultural tradition inherited from Spain that is not for the faint of heart.
The official national day of Australia is held on January 26th, during the height of the southern hemisphere’s summer. Celebrate like the locals do by dressing up in Australia’s national colors, visiting historical museums, and picnicking beneath the fireworks (the show over the Sydney Harbor is particularly impressive). And don’t forget to check out a local newspaper or magazine for all the smaller events happening in every neighborhood—you wouldn’t want to miss that one-off surfing competition or a little-advertised concert of Aboriginal musicians. Though the accent may be different, the fireworks, the food, and all the red, white & blue will feel familiar to any American!