National Days – here’s how you do it

Newer countries mark their national day as the day of their independence, older countries use the day to remember an event of special significance. Here’s a round up of some of the best.

Left: The National Celebration, Bastille Day, on July 14, Paris. Photo: Getty Images. Right: Australia Day with legendary Australian fireworks. Photo: Shutterstock

Left: The National Celebration, Bastille Day, on July 14, Paris. Photo: Getty Images. Right: Australia Day with legendary Australian fireworks. Photo: Shutterstock


Formally known as La Fête nationale or The National Celebration, Bastille Day, on July 14, commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, which kicked off with the Storming of the Bastille. Wreaths are laid at war memorials, while the oldest and biggest annual military parade in Europe is held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, with the President of the ­Republic along with numerous French dignitaries and foreign guests in attendance. The Paris fireworks are magnificent and two great spots to view them are near the Eiffel Tower or on the Champs de Mars. You could also opt for a river cruise and enjoy a fabulous meal while drinking in the display.

Bastille Day
July 14


Australia Day celebrates the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships in Port Jackson. It’s the biggest public celebration of the year and is marked with hundreds of parties across the country. It’s also the day when many newcomers receive Australian citizenship. If you’re in Sydney on the day, head on down to the harbor where you’ll be treated to music, great food, and one of those legendary Australian fireworks displays.

Australia Day
January 26


On October 12, 1918, the Spanish government decided to celebrate Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Originally called Fiesta de la Raza (Feast of the Race), it was renamed Dia de la Fiesta (Day of the Race) in 1940, then Fiesta de la Hispanidad (Feast of the Hispanic Culture) and is now known as Fiesta Nacional de España. If that isn’t confusing enough, it is also the Armed Forces Day, the Feast Day of the Virgin of Pilar, and the Festival of the Guardia Civil. As a result, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to things to do. In Madrid, the biggest event is the massive military parade that draws huge crowds to the palace where the King and various dignitaries watch the procession and the aero­batics show.

Fiesta Nacional de España
October 12
Madrid, Spain


Sweden’s National Day dates back to 1523 when King Gustav Vasa was crowned following the country’s break from Danish rule. It’s also the day Sweden signed its Constitution in 1809. A recent survey showed most Swedes do nothing to mark the day, preferring to relax, but if you are in the mood for some celebrating, go to Skansen, where there’ll be folk music and children wearing traditional costumes presenting the King and Queen with flowers.

Swedish National Day
June 6
Skansen, Stockholm

Boston Pops Orchestra Fireworks Spectacular. Photo: Jay Connor

Boston Pops Orchestra Fireworks Spectacular. Photo: Jay Connor

United States

The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, in which the colonies said “no” to Great Britain. Towns hold parades and people have barbecues or go on picnics with family and friends. Boston takes its Fourth of July celebrations seriously, and one of the best events is the Boston Pops Orchestra Fireworks Spectacular, held on the Charles River Esplanade.

The Fourth of July Celebrations
July 4


Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Denmark doesn’t have an official National Day, although what the Danes call Constitution Day is observed on June 5. This commemorates the 1849 signing of the Constitution and celebrates the adoption of Denmark’s constitution in 1953. Most offices and stores close at noon, and while you might see some political rallies and meetings, Danes also celebrate Father’s Day on June 5, so the focus tends to be on dad.

Constitution Day
June 5
Denmark (throughout)

Text: Judi Lembke

Scandinavian Traveler


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