Celebrating National Holidays Abroad

Why are they worth attending?

March 05th, 2020
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Recently, the Berlin cultural scene has seen many events being organized for national holidays being celebrated in embassies. From the celebration of the twenty-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, to the Ghanaian independence day, there seem to be enough reasons to party if you look for them. But are they just meant for nationals and diaspora, or are outsiders welcome too?

The European Commission is in the habit to wish it Member States a happy national holiday on the morning of the day, which is a good way to keep track of when and which EU state is celebrating what. For example, recently Estonia celebrated that it became independent from Germany after World War I (not to be confused with Independence Restoration Day, which is in August and celebrates Estonia’s freedom after the fall of the Soviet Union). It did so in style, with an Estonian folk band singing songs in Estonian.

When the crowd was asked which persons were not as comfortable in the Estonian language as they would like, almost half of them doubtfully raised their hand. The band continued to explain their songs in English from that point onwards.
This proves that culture sometimes has a hard time transcending borders; some third-generation immigrants may feel distant from the country where their grandparents grew up in, and do no longer speak the language. It is almost like celebrating national holidays abroad would be no longer of any importance in our fast-paced world, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Foreigners are usually more than welcome to celebrate national holidays, there are many tourists that travel to the Netherlands for King’s Day, all dressed up in orange. Does it still make sense for a Chinese person to attend King’s Day celebrations at the Dutch embassy in Berlin?

The answer is absolutely. There is no better opportunity for embassies to promote their national culture than during a national holiday. The days are often a combination of a state’s language(s), its history and cultural practises. Those who are interested, get an introduction to the country in the best way possible: very often the gatherings include traditional food and snacks, and the overall ambience is cheerful.

National holidays are no longer just for nationals, it is also a way for a country to put itself and its culture on the map. Visitors get a taste of a state’s culture and its history, which is often very important, especially when it comes to shared history.

National holidays are therefore the ideal way to promote a state’s culture abroad, but also to come together and celebrate despite our differences.

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