The first known use of the word independence was in 1640, some 136 years before the Continental Congress declared the 13 American colonies to be a new nation, and no longer part of the British Empire. The United States of America traditionally celebrates that day on July 4th.
But we were far from the first nation to declare ourselves free and independent. In 1291, Switzerland joined an alliance against the Holy Roman Empire, which had ruled Switzerland since the 1st Century BCE. Sweden marks 1523 as its year of independence when the election of King Gustav Vasa became the de facto end of the Kalmar Union.
Most countries celebrate an independence or national day with annual festivities commemorating the anniversary of a nation’s declaration of independent statehood, usually after ceasing to be a colony or part of another state. Interestingly, Canada, which observes Canada Day July 1st, was the first country created by legislation. It united three separate colonies into a single dominion through the British North America Act (Constitution Act) of 1867.
Customs usually include the expected parades, fireworks and parties. In India, it also includes kite flying. Freedom is symbolized by flying kites so on their independence day, August 15th, thousands upon thousands of kites of all shapes and sizes soar above rooftops throughout the country. In Indonesia, they celebrate independence on August 17th with the panjat pinang, a challenge to climb a slippery oiled pole to try to grab one of the prizes that are waiting on the top. In Kenya, Jamhuri Day, December 12th, marks the creation of the republic, and Kenyans across the country with celebrate with the day with traditional foods, songs and dances and customary dress such as Kikoys, vibrantly colored, hand-woven cloth wrapped around the waist or the neck, and Kitenges, East African fabrics women wear as beautiful dresses or elaborate headscarves.
However, we choose to celebrate our nationhood, with kites or fireworks, may we do so with respect and in peace.