July 4th Around the World

All over the United States, we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, food, parades, and flags, all supplemented by local trends and traditions.

In New York, fireworks will explode over the East River. In Washington, we’ll get a free concert on a Capitol Fourth. In Santa Fe, where I’m from, we’ll take over the town Plaza to eat pancakes.

But what about Americans living overseas?

Cupcakes are decorated red, white, and blue for the U.S. Independence Day celebration at the Ambassador’s Residence in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on July 2, 2010.
Photograph courtesy the U.S. Department of State. Public domain

For U.S. embassies, Independence Day can be the biggest holiday of the year. Embassy staff organizes festivities well in advance, making guest lists months ahead of time. In countries with few American citizens, every single one of them might be invited to celebrate! In a place with more expats, the embassy might coordinate with another group, like the Chamber of Commerce, and rent a pavilion or green space to host a concert.

Embassy celebrations of Independence Day are different than those in the states because they have two target audiences. First, they cater to expats who want to feel at home for a day. The celebrations also reach out to citizens of the host country to provide an international experience and to catalyze cultural exchange (President Obama even tried to use the holiday to reach out to Iran, reports Stephen Colbert).

So what does this mean? According to the embassy official interviewed in this video from Estonia, “we barbecue meat and eat it with cabbage, and we drink a lot of beer … it’s very informal, casual, fun.” There are a lot of garden parties: London, Ottawa, Berlin, Nigeria. There are a lot of speeches celebrating shared history and values: Haiti, KyrgyzstanMalaysia, Papua New Guinea, Iceland. There are even fireworks: Macedonia, Vienna, Jordan.

Red, white, and blue fireworks explode over Manila, Philippines.
Photograph by Sumarie Slabber, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0

Outside embassies, many cultural and trade associations celebrate the Fourth:

Have any fun experiences celebrating 4th of July abroad? Tell us your stories!

One thought on “July 4th Around the World

  1. Happy 4th of July! Thank you to our Country’s Law Enforcement and First Responders for keeping us safe while we celebrate Independence Day!

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