This holiday weekend began with a wonderful dinner with a few friends, one of whom is Canadian. My cultural ignorance shone through when I asked why she had prepared Canadadian-flag themed cupcakes to accompany the American-flag cupcakes... I was completely oblivious to the fact that July 1 is Canada Day! Upon reflection it hit me that outside of the U.S. and perhaps France and Hungary, I know next to nothing of the road to independence for other countries.
It is a holiday weekend, so I will spare readers with the full histories, but I looked up a few countries and have given a very brief overview of their respective independence days (or lack thereof!). I purposely chose nations about which I'm curious but have little existing knowledge.
So, Happy Independence Day. Here's to America, and here's to all those around the world who have the courage to challenge injustice, the tenacity to fight oppression, and the ingenuity and capacity to inspire others.
Ghana: On March 6, 1957 Ghana gained its independence from the British, thereby becoming the first black African country to become independent (according to the BBC's standards of independence, that is). The newly created flag features a black star representing the African struggle against colonialism, a green stripe representing the natural beauty of the country, a gold stripe representing the country's mineral wealth and a red stripe representing the blood shed for those who struggled for the country's independence.
South Korea: While this one is a bit more controversial given the ongoing split between North and South Korea, I am including it because I learned something new here. I somehow had no idea the Japanese controlled the Korean peninsula until the end of World War II. Independence day is officially recognized as August 15, 1945, in accordance with the Japanese surrender. The deal was brokered by the USSR and the U.S.; to the north of the 38th parallel the Japanese surrendered to the USSR, and to the south they surrendered to the US. This has marked the dividing line between North and South Korea ever since.
New Zealand: After the British experienced the fiasco that was the American Revolution, they were keen to avoid a redux. So the colonies housing relatively large British populations, among them Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were given proressively more autonomy. The New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852 gave the colony's settlers the right to self-government. The country's independence was cemented by its inclusion in the League of Nations in 1919.
Peru: The Peruvians declared their independence from Spain on July 28, 1821, although they did not have full freedom until after a three year war with the Spaniards. If you think fireworks are over the top in the US, go to Peru on July 28th: in addition to fireworks, they celebrate with bull fights and greased-pole-climbing contests!
Thailand: Thailand has no official independence day; rather, they have a "national day", celebrated each year on the king's birthday! The current king's birthday is December 5, for those inquiring minds...