Happy Nationalization Day!

20 Mar

Today is Oil Nationalization Day, a public holiday. In Iran. Every country has some strange holidays – Egyptians, for example, celebrate National Police Day. 

19th/20th March (depending on the year) marks the anniversary of the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry in 1951. Having an official holiday for that is a solid proof that your country is too dependent on oil.

A little oil history

British companies established a dominant presence in Iran’s petroleum industry after World War II, with the (in)famous Anglo-Iranian Oil Company controlling vast reserves. Disputes with the Iranians over royalties, workers’ wages and management rights had reached a deadlock, so nationalist politician (and later prime  minister) Mohammed Mossadeq’s calls for the nationalization of industry assets (as well as the use of oil revenues to alleviate mass poverty) earned him a large following.

On 20th March 1951, the Mejlis (Iranian parliament) voted unanimously to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. However, Mossadeq’s dreams did not come true: following the nationalization, most Western petroleum experts left the country, and Iran’s oil industry was placed under a widespread international embargo. As a result, production fell, poverty and internal dissent began to rise, and the events culminated in the US- and UK-abetted Operation Ajax in 1953, during which PM Mossadeq was ultimately overthrown.

Iran military parade.jpg Parading around. Source: Armyrecognition.com   

Weird holidays around the world

Obviously Iran isn’t the only country to celebrate seemingly strange national holidays. Just consider some of the examples below, or submit your own on our Facebook page or to the gurulohordo@gmail.com email address.

Tomb Sweeping Day/Qingming Festival in China is held on April 4th. (It would probably also win the contest for the national holiday with the most names, and is also referred to as the Clear Bright Festival, Chinese Memorial Day or Spring Remembrance.) Similar to All Soul’s Day in many Western countries, it is an opportunity to remember and honor ancestors and relatives, but in a less somber manner: apart from the typical prayers and sweeping of gravesites, food and drink is offered to the dead; chopsticks, joss paper and other items are left at graves. Willow branches are used to symbolize the warding off of evil spirits. Tomb Sweeping Day is also the time when families go on their first spring outings, when young couples start dating, and when children fly kites.

Chinese graveyard.jpg Nothing drab about this cemetery… Source: Deck the Holidays

25th January marks National Police Day in Egypt, in remembrance of the 50 or so police officers who lost their lives during the British siege of the Ismailia police station in 1952. The holiday was supposed to highlight the bravery and heroism of the Egyptian police force, which had actually become synonymous with the oppression of the Mubarak era. Ironically, National Police Day also coincided with the start of mass demonstrations in Cairo and other major cities in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.

 Egypt police day.jpg

The holiday crowd? Source: The Atlantic

On the third Monday of September, Japan (who else?) celebrates Respect for the Aged Day. This annual holiday started only in 1966, and usually features sports and cultural programs honoring the elderly, with the media regularly reporting on demographic trends (not too promising in Japan…) and showing interviews with the oldest citizens. Incidentally, life expectancy at birth in Japan (at 83.6 years according to the UN’s most recent census) is among the highest in the world.

The so-called St Paul’s Shipwreck is commemorated on 10th February in Malta. According to the legend, St Paul travelled from Jerusalem to Rome around the year A.D. 60, but during his voyage he suffered a shipwreck on the island of Malta, making him the country’s Patron Saint. The day is marked with church services, a colorful parade, fireworks and music.

The US also has a habit of ‘celebrating’ weird things literally every day, even though these are not public holidays. According to daysoftheyear.com, Monday was Biodiesel Day (!), (see here why we do not like biodiesel – ‘not like’ is an understatement) and today is Snowman Burning Day. Other favorites include Polar Bear Day (27th February), Dance Like a Chicken Day (14th May), Cheesecake Day (30th July), and the particularly bizarre Beheading Day (2nd September). And don’t forget that March is National Cheerleading Safety Month! See also this Tom Lehrer classic on National Brotherhood Week, a funny song caricaturing such celebrations. (To find out what day your birthday coincides with, check it out here.)

 Cheerleaders.jpgMarch is National Cheerleading Safety Month. Source: Imgace.com

Cyprus is just having a fabulous bank holiday. On such days people take to the streets and stand in huge queues… – to get cash from ATM machines. That is of course not because of a weird celebration, but because of the plan of a hefty hair-cut on bank deposits as part of an EU-bailout. People will surely also remember this in the years to come…   

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