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January 22, 2019

What is Republic Day in India?

First President of India, Rajendra Prasad
Republic Day, which falls on January 26th every year, is the first holiday in the Western Calendar that is celebrated all over India and is an official day off.

What is Republic Day?
India became independent from British rule on 15th August 1947 (Independence Day) and it wasn’t until three years later that India’s constitution came into force, thus completing the country’s transition to an independent and democratic republic. On the 26th of January 1950, a twenty one gun salute was fired, the Indian National flag hoisted by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India (pictured, source Wikipedia), and the Indian republic was born. 

When is Republic Day? 
Republic day is celebrated every year on January the 26th, in every state of India. This patriotic celebration is one of the three Indian national holidays (the others being Independence day and Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday). Schools and many businesses are closed to allow India to celebrate wholeheartedly! 

What happens if Republic Day is on a Saturday or Sunday? 
As Republic Day is on a fixed date- January 26th, there are some years (such as in 2019), that it will fall on a weekend day. There is no concept of moving a holiday to a working day or giving a working day off a day before or after a holiday if it falls on a weekend day. In some parts of India, Saturday can be a working day (for businesses and schools). In such cases, then if Republic Day falls on a Saturday, it will become a holiday. But, in some cases, people may still go to school or work for a Flag Hoisting Ceremony. 

Republic Day is one of a few holidays that fall on a fixed day [in the Western Calendar]. Others include (but may not be limited to Labour Day - May 1, Independence Day- August 15, Gandhi Jayanthi/Birthday of Gandhi - October 2nd, Kerala Day or Kerala Statehood Day (only regional holiday listed here)- November 1, and Christmas Day- December 25). Most other holidays in India are calculated based on regional spiritual and traditional calendars, so some holidays may change at the last minute! 

How is Republic Day celebrated?
Celebrating Repubilc Day at Delhi Gate
The main Republic Day celebration can be found in India’s capital city, New Delhi (photo, right of Jennifer Kumar with Indian family at Delhi Gate on a cold January night). A huge, colourful parade is televised across the nation (it can also be viewed live online from 9am IST), celebrating India’s rich heritage and diverse culture. The parade most importantly pays tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for India. There are also many colorful and themed floats (tableau) depicting the rich and diverse culture of various regions and states in India. After the spectacular parade, a twenty-one gun salute is sounded, the Indian flag unfurled by the current President and the national anthem sang. Across the country, thousands of smaller parades are held by school children and the armed forces.


Some photos of the Kerala Tableau from 2018.
The writing on the Tableau says "Kerala" in Hindi.
The theme is a popular regional festival from Oachira, near Trivandrum.



During this time, many cities in India become awash with orange, white and green flags. There are flags on every street, fluttering on cars, hanging from homes and children’s faces are painted the nations colours. Almost every shop has flags stuck to their windows or orange, white and green balloons at their entrances. India is a very patriotic country and it’s marvelous to see! Families may also serve foods in the colors of the Indian flag, such as the tricolor dhokla below. Dhokla, a traditional north Indian vegetarian food is a chick pea flour steam cake that is eaten with a side of chutney.

See more Indian recipes at Sailaja's Kitchen.


Do Indians celebrate Republic Day in the office? 
Yes! Actually, there is rarely a holiday that gets missed in the office! Republic Day is one that people love to celebrate at work with decor, food, song, dance, skits, and other patriotic displays. It is possible that if Republic Day falls on a weekend day, your virtual team in India may celebrate on a Friday or Monday. Celebrations may happen during the work day, so plan in advance to assure workflow goes as anticipated. 

The photo of the Republic Day decor showcases the creative talent and passion for culture and celebration you can see in India! The entire office was decorated in tricolor, down to the plates of food! Incidentally, the logo of the company was also made from the tricolor; not just patriotic but loyal to their employer as well!


How do Indian Expats in the US celebrate Republic Day? 
Of course! There are India culture groups, sometimes separated by region (especially if the Indian community is large) of India in most parts of the US. For instance, here in Salt Lake City, where one of the authors live, we have India culture groups from various regions: Gujarat, Maharasthra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh/Telegana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala (I hope I got them all!). Indians in the USA call themselves NRIs or Non Resident Indians (that's their term for expat). 

During this time of the year, there are a few other regional holidays going on in India including Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Makara Sankranti (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telegana/Andhra Pradesh, Lohri (Punjab). Since we don't get any days off in the US for Indian holidays, most Indian community groups club together these holidays along with Republic Day and have a winter potluck or some type of gathering in January. In some cases, I have heard a few groups also club Martin Luther King Jr. Day along with these holidays to bring in the US element. I lived in Corning, New York for a few years, where the Indian community group (Southern Tier Indian Community Association - STICA) often did a winter potluck, sometimes along with regional foods, we may hear songs, see skits and visit other's homes to see their decors. If I remember correctly, some Telugu people during Makara Sankaranti put up a bomma golu (hope I got the right term). This is a series of steps with dolls and themes. They are really beautiful and wonderful to see! A similar display may be seen in October/November among some Tamils who celebrate Navarathri (called golu in Tamil).



Republic Day through Expat's Eyes
This article was originally written by a British expat living in Nagpur with her Indian husband. This new version is updated by the owner of this blog, an American citizen who lived in India close to 10 years who is also married into an Indian family (pictured above). I would like to share both of our impressions of small talk on Republic Day. 

Making Small Talk on Republic Day: Reflections of a British Expat in India  
Republic Day is a day when India celebrates being free from outside rule and remembers the freedom fighters to gave their lives for their independence. As a British citizen living in India, Republic Day has the potential to be a sensitive subject. British people who have read the history may feel some ‘post-colonial’ guilt and I have had occasions where I have been confronted with hateful comments from Indians for being British. 

The actions of some of our ancestors were beyond awful and inhumane. I personally believe that people cannot be blamed for the actions of their ancestors, religion, nationality or race. Only a small minority of Indians feel hate towards this generation of Westerners, most don’t blame people by association. I, like most Indians I have discussed this topic with, feel it’s important not to wipe away the history from our consciousness, but to learn from mistakes and treat everyone equally, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. 

This is not a holiday of grudges; this is a holiday of pride and joy. If you have an Indian friend or colleague who grew up in India, they would probably love to talk about their childhood memories of Republic Day. Republic day is full of parties, socialising and fun but it’s good to remember that Republic Day is a ‘dry day’ across India and most shops, bars and restaurants will not serve alcohol. 

Making Small Talk on Republic Day: An American Expat's Reflections 
Indian patriotic sticker I had
on my college folder in India.
Just like wearing red, white and blue for patriotic days in the US is a way to show your participation, in India, I do try to wear clothing showcasing the orange (saffron), white and green of the Indian flag, an Indian flag pin, and wish people Happy Republic Day. Other than that, I somehow feel inadequate to talk about how to make small talk on this holiday. The reason goes back to an answer I got from this question I asked a friend of mine who grew up in India and moved to the US in the early 2000s, "How do you celebrate 4th of July?" 

When I heard, "Well, I don't really know how to celebrate this holiday. Though I have a lot of American born friends of Indian ancestry who adopted this holiday, and even some other friend born in India who have been in the US for decades and become US citizens who relate to this holiday, somehow it doesn't strike a chord with me in the same way Republic Day or Independence Day in India does to me." I was a little shocked to hear this because somehow my impressions of becoming a citizen were broken upon hearing this. Of course, how can becoming a citizen flip a switch? One will always feel some pull to their native land, and may or may not feel that same pull to their adopted country. I feel a pull toward India, I feel I will always be connected and want to go to India, and there are times hearing the Indian national anthem gets me emotional, but it is not something that I grew up with. It's hard to describe. Because of this, I may miss some subtle or obvious things about India that an Indian citizen would notice with their eyes closed!  And, it's because of this, I feel a bit inadequate to give advice on this topic. Instead, I'll share my experiences and impressions.

Actually, I really used to enjoy speaking to my father in law about Republic Day the most as he was 'older than modern day India.' The stories he told, I wish I had written down. He used to often say the younger generation doesn't really understand the struggles the older people had to go through to create a free India. He felt in the current day more people used to stay home and watch TV or go on outings rather than use the time to reflect on the progress of India, which he often used this day for. I guess he makes a good point, because many people in the US complain Americans don't really commemorate Memorial Day in an appropriate way as well.

I think as an expat who lived in India, I loved to learn about Indian culture and history. I attended several Republic Day flag hoisting events in my time in India. Some of those events had a cultural program of dance, songs and skits that followed. In some cases, there were fancy dress competitions where kids dressed up as famous people from Indian history. This was always fun and educational to see. When the flag is hoisted, I respect it by being quiet, and listening to the national anthem (listen to the anthem and read basic facts about India here).


On the 26th of January, remember to wish the Indians you know a “Happy Republic Day.”



This article was originally written in 2015 by, Lauren Mokasdar, an English expat living in Nagpur. She blogs at: EnglishWifeIndianLife.com. This article was elaborated on by Jennifer Kumar, the owner of this blog and CEO of Authentic Journeys in 2019. As this article is written by a British person and an American person, I have kept both UK and US spelling! Did you notice it?

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We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.