Djibouti celebrates its independence from France in 1977.
Canada celebrates Multiculturalism Day, which falls between National Aboriginal Day on June 21 and Canada Day on July 1.
Brazil celebrates Mixed Race Day on June 27. It falls 3 days after the (state of) Amazon’s Day of the Caboclo. Caboclo refers a specific Brazilian mixed-race, dating back to when the first soldiers of European descent settled in the Amazon to harvest rubber, and intermarried with the local Amerindian population.
This year (2009) the UK celebrates its first annual Armed Forces Day to coincide with Veterans’ Day, which has been observed on June 27 since 2006.
June 27 is the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross in in London’s Hyde Park in 1857. Originally established to honor veterans of the Crimean War, the Victoria Cross is the highest military honor in the UK.
In 2005, Private Johnson Beharry became the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross since 1969. Two Victoria Crosses were awarded during the Falklands War in 1982, both posthumously.
Awaken thee, Romanian, shake off the deadly slumber…
Today is National Flag Day in Romania.
The three colors of the Romanian flag represent the blood of the people, the golden crops of the land, and the blue sky above…according to the Communists who ruled Romania from 1947 to 1989. But much has changed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, including the country’s national anthem, which was “Three Colors” from 1977 to 1989.
Like the flag itself, the country is an amalgamation of three nations: Dacia, Wallachia, and their all-too-famous cousin Transylvania. Though Transylvania is the most notorious, Romania was actually formed by the merging of the other two, Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859. Transylvania didn’t join the club until 1918.
Who put the Roman in Romania?
After decades of clashes between Rome and the land known as Dacia, the Roman Emperor Trajan attacked and conquered the defiant kingdom around 100 AD. The war had tested and refined Roman military ingenuity. Dacia was powerful, wealthy, and no stranger to war. Trajan declared 123 days of celebration in Rome following the victory.
Two full Roman legions were posted in Dacia even in peacetime. The soldiers and Dacians intermarried, as did their native tongues. Dacian fighters repelled the Roman invaders around the 4th century, but even today Romania bears the name of the ancient empire. Romania, meaning Land of the Romans, didn’t become the official name until 1862, three years after the creation of the Moldavia-Wallachia state.
The Romanian flag has survived in one form another for 1500 years. Emperor Justinian issued a decree in 535 describing the region’s coat of arms and banner:
“On the right…a red shield, on which towers can be seen, signifying the other Dacia; in the second section a blue-sky shield, with the ensigns of the Bur tribe…and golden in the middle.”
A thousand years later the colors still coincided with the three major regions: red for Moldavia, gold for Wallachia, and blue for Transylvania. And in 1600, the prince Michael the Brave briefly united the three provinces before his assassination in 1601. The colors were used during this time to symbolize the amalgamated territories.
During the Communist regime a coat of arms was added to the banner, but removed in 1989, sometimes quite literally…
Like a family of members forced to live under one roof through most of the 20th century, the states that made up Yugoslavia had little in common but rivalries. Forged in the wake of World War I, the country was initially known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, as it was later called, was dismantled after the Nazi invasion of 1941.
The country rose from the ashes of World War II as Democratic Federal Yugoslavia. Then as Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. (The Democratic thing didn’t work out too well.) Yugoslavia—the union of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina—held together during the post-War period largely due to the iron will of one man, Josep Tito, the country’s president from 1953 to 1980.
Tito didn’t get along with Stalin. Because Yugoslavia’s Socialist revolution wasn’t thrust upon it by the Soviet Union, but was home-grown, Yugoslavia’s Communist Party wasn’t dependent upon the Soviets. They didn’t look at Stalin as a national hero. Relations with the Soviets soured after Yugoslavia refused to compromise its independence and merge with Bulgaria, as the Soviet Union requested. And throughout the Cold War, Yugoslavia remained neutral.
In 1980 President Tito’s death left a power vacuum that would never be filled. In the late 80’s, ethnic tensions broke out in Kosovo and across the separate states.
Tensions came to a head in June 1991 when, following a Croatian referendum, Croatia and Slovenia announced their intentions to break away from the union. Both states declared their independence on June 25th of that year. Though Slovenia’s declaration met with some violence, Croatia’s erupted into a full scale war. The former Yugoslavia became the site of one of the bloodiest European conflicts since the end of the World War II.
Today—June 25—Croatia and Slovenia, the Yugoslav fraternal twins, celebrate their birthdays.
In the grand saga of the Russian Empire, Russia Day is a relatively new holiday, eagerly burrowing into the Russian consciousness to create roots and establish traditions.
In the early 1990’s it was known as “Russian Independence Day”. June 12th marks the day in 1990 that the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Russian Republic declared independence from the Soviet Union.
The irony that Russia declared independence from an entity to which it was virtually synonymous in the eyes of the world was not lost on the Russians. So in 1994, the holiday name was changed to “Day of the Declaration of the Sovereignty of the Russian Federation” for clarification, which was ultimately more confusing than the first name.
Finally, in an uncharacteristic Russian push for brevity, Vladimir Putin shortened it to Russia Day in 2002, and the name has stuck.
One Russia Day tradition is the handing out of the “Russia Medals” for achievements in science and culture. But the rituals that seem to have made the biggest headway are sports and racing.
Marathons, drag races and motorcycle stunt competitions will bring Moscow traffic to a stop today. Several running and motoring races take place today, including the final leg of the 1,151 kilometer “Golden Ring” race which finishes up just outside the Kremlin, and the “drifting” contests where drivers basically treat their cars like big roller skates. The weekend also hosts the “Call of Russia” Tournament, the Independence Cup, and the Moscow Sailing Cup.
In general though, the populace has yet to rally around June 12th as a symbol of what it means to be Russian.
“…for some people, June 12 signifies a tragedy because it marks the end of a glorious Soviet era. And for others, the date means nothing at all. What a fitting date for a state holiday!” — Boris Kagarlitsk, Moscow Times
But I love Russia Day if, for nothing else, it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite pictures.
St. Valentine gets all the credit for bringing lovers together in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Brazil, that honor goes to Saint Anthony.
St. Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon, Portugal, as well as of lovers and newlyweds. He died on June 13, 1231 in Padua, Italy, at the age of 36. The eve before his feast day in early June is the perfect time for Brazilians to celebrate with their special someone. Especially since in Brazil, February 14 falls smack dab in the middle of Carnival season and people have enough holidays to worry about without getting in a passive-aggressive fight with their girlfriend because they forgot to get a gift.
So next time your sweetheart is upset that you totally flaked on Valentine’s Day, surprise her on June 12th by explaining how you were waiting for the real lovers’ day: Dia dos Namorados.
And if that doesn’t fly (and it won’t), break out Bardanza.
Open your hands,
Give me the roses
You brought just for me.
Open your heart,
Write me a poem,
Read me the best part
Of our story.
I am still here,
Contemplating your sweetness,
Expecting your caress.
Open all the doors,
Here is the key…
Open the windows too,
Touch my soul again,
Say “I love you”…
Open up yourself to me
Forgive my mistakes,my madness,
I couldn’t stand your silence.
I couldn’t stand your coldness…
Today is one of the few American holidays to honor royalty. (Don’t forget January 8th’s Birthday of the King!) June 11th is King Kamehameha Day, honoring King Kamehameha the Great, who united and ruled the Hawaiian island chain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Kamehameha was a grandson of a chief who ruled much of the big island of Hawaii, but Kamehameha’s succession was not forthcoming. Instead Kamehameha was appointed the guardian of Kuaka`ilimoku, the local god of war, in 1782.
In the 1880’s, Kamehameha battled against his cousin Kiwala’o for control of the big island, and eventually emerged victorious. In 1795 he had captured the islands of Oahu and Maui as well. Attempts to capture Kauai and Ni’ihau eluded the great king for years, due to epidemics and rebellions at home. In 1810 Kamehameha negotiated control of the last two islands, uniting the chain with himself as ruler. For his military expertise, Kamehameha is sometimes called the “Napoleon of the Pacific.”
As ruler, Kamehameha codified the legal system and set in place a legacy of stability that would prevent foreign occupation up until the end of the 19th century.
King Kamehameha died on May 8, 1819. Kamehameha Day was proclaimed in his honor by his great grandson, also King Kamehameha, in 1871. It’s been a Hawaiian holiday for nearly 140 years.
The feats of Arms, and famed heroic Host
from occidental Lusitanian strand,
who over the waters never by seaman crossed
fared beyond the Taprobane-land (Ceylon)
forceful in perils and in battle-post,
with more than promised force of mortal hand…
June 10 is Portugal’s National Day, aptly known as “Portugal Day” or Dia de Portugal. Actually it’s longer, but few go around saying, “Happy Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Community!”
Portugal Day marks the death of writer, historian and adventurer Luís de Camões in 1580.
Camões wrote the Portuguese national epic Os Lusíadas , a history in verse of the Iberian nation and the era of discovery.
Compared to his writings, little is known of Camões’ real life. He was banished from Lisbon in 1546, supposedly because of an affair with a lady of the court. He served in the military for two years in Morocco, where he lost his right eye. He returned to Lisbon where the king (John III) pardoned him for injuring an officer in a street brawl; then spent 17 years in exile from his homeland, living in Goa, India and Macau, China. During these years he conceived of and wrote much of Os Lusíadas. Legend tells us he survived a shipwreck in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, keeping his manuscript dry by swimming with one arm and holding it above the water with the other.
(The word “Lusiadas” stems from the tribe that occupied Portugal in ancient times, and refers to the Portuguese.)
Camões presented his masterpiece to King Sebastian in 1572 and won a small royal pension. However, he spent the end of his life in in a Lisbon poorhouse.
The year of Camões’ death, King Philip of Spain claimed the throne of Portugal after the disappearance of King Sebastian at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. Portugal remained under Spanish control for sixty years.
Today, citizens of Portugal get the day off, the President addresses the nation, and Portuguese around the world gather to celebrate their homeland and their heritage.
Anniversary of the Ascension of King Abdullah II – June 9;
Army Day / Anniversary of the Great Arab Revolt – June 10
King Abdullah II of Jordan was not selected as Crown Prince until January 24, 1999, just two weeks before the death of his father. Previously the king’s brother had been heir apparent (and it was speculated that had the king lived longer, Abdullah’s younger half-brother would have been made heir). As it was, upon the king’s death from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Adbullah became the king of Jordan on February 7, 1999. A separate enthronement ceremony was held on June 9 so that…
Jordan is known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Hashemites descend from Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, the great grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad, through the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah. Hashim means “cuts into pieces. It sounds like a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with, but Hashim earned his nickname benevolently…
King Abdullah II’s father, King Hussein (1935-1999), once said of the Hashemites…
“We are the family of the prophet and we are the oldest tribe in the Arab world.” (Hussein CNN obit.)
• • •
King Abdullah II studied in England and the United States as well as Jordan. In fact he recently established King’s Academy in Jordan in the spirit of his alma mater, Massachusetts’ Deerfield Academy, even hiring the boarding school’s headmaster to lead it.
He served in several capacities in the Jordanian military, including as Commander of Special Operations, and had attained the rank of Major General when he assumed responsibilities as monarch.
Jordan’s geography and history places it in a unique place in Middle Eastern and Western diplomacy. Like his predecessor, King Abdullah has played a key role in the Palestinian-Israeli relations. In a recent speech commemorating the dual anniversaries of the Great Arab Revolt (Army Day) and his 1999 inauguration, the King responded to military personnel who criticized naturalization of Palestinians for fear doing so could weaken plans for a Palestinian state.
“You should be sure that we will not accept, under whatever circumstances, a solution for the Palestinian question at the expense of Jordan. Also, Jordan will not have any role in the West Bank. At the same time, we will not give up our historical role and duty in supporting our Palestinian brethren until they set up their independent state on their national soil.” — King Abdullah II
The West Bank was part of Jordan until the Six Day War in 1967. Over half of Jordan’s population are of Palestinian extraction, including the King’s wife, Queen Rania, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents.
The King’s mother is Princess Muna al-Hussein, born Antoinette Gardiner in Suffolk, England. She met King Hussein on the set of Lawrence of Arabia and converted to Islam; the two were married from 1961 to 1971 and had four children.