Experience world cultures by celebrating national holidays

National days of celebration are a great time to learn about a particular country or culture, and taste a little of what they are known for!

Have you ever traveled to another country? Would you like to? What different ways can you experience their culture? One way is through food. National days of celebration are a great time to learn about a particular country or culture, and taste a little of what they are known for!

To get you started, I gathered a list of countries and days to celebrate them. When explored, you may find there is not a month that goes by when there is not a national day to celebrate. However, putting together this list was more difficult than you might imagine. What makes a country? If two countries argue over the same piece of land, how is it determined who has the legitimate claim? As of 2017, the United Nations has 206 participants, not all of which are member states. In addition, there are some cultural groups of people that cross national borders or specific cultural groups within a country. Furthermore, there are areas that may come under the jurisdiction of a particular government, but have a very different culture. One example is the American Samoa in the Pacific; American Samoa has a different culture the than rest of the United States. 

As a result of the many variances, the groups included in this list are not exhaustive, but merely a compilation for your use. To begin, first pick a day to celebrate and then do research online or at a local library to learn about that country’s food and other cultural aspects. What is the history of the celebratory day? What foods might they eat?

If you’re having trouble identifying information about international cuisine, here are some helpful books:

  • Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel
  • International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World by Mark and Talia Kurlansky
  • The Classic Encyclopedia  of World Recipes edited by Sarah Ainley
  • Global Meatballs by Adeline Myers
  • The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother by Jeff Smith

After doing some research and making cultural food discoveries, try making the recipes that you can with the supplies that are available. You could also find a food establishment that sells different foods from around the world and begin to try them! You may find a new favorite international dish without traveling while gaining knowledge on a culture different from your own.

This article was inspired by and adapted from the 4-H Folkpatterns curriculum which was created in 1979, and last updated in 1991. You may also find the Folkpatterns curriculum Leaders’ Guide and 4-H Foodways useful resources.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2017 impact report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders”.  Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017 can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.


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