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Kiribati National Day – July 12, 2023

Kiribati National Day is a public holiday that is observed on July 12 every year. This day commemorates the independence of Kiribati from the U.K. Festivities last for several days as the government sets the dates for several other public holidays like Gospel Day, National Culture Day, and Senior Citizens’ Day during Independence Week. The capital of South Tarawa has the biggest celebration at the Bairiki National Stadium. Colorful parades, traditional dances, canoe races, kite-flying, and other sports competitions form part of the revelry.

History of Kiribati National Day

Kiribati is located in the central Pacific Ocean and is part of the division of the Pacific Islands called Micronesia. There are 33 coral islands consisting of the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands, and the Line Islands. Most are atolls or ring-shaped islands with central lagoons, except for Banana in the Gilbert Islands, which is a raised limestone island. Only 21 islands are inhabited, with most of the population concentrated in the Gilbert Islands.

The islands came under European colonial rule almost by accident. Several Europeans just happened to end up there as traders or castaways. It was named after British naval captain Thomas Gilbert who came across the islands in 1788 while sailing from Australia to China. In 1892, Britain declared a protectorate over the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands, now known as Tuvalu. They also annexed Ocean Island, now known as Banaba, with the discovery of phosphate resources. The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony was formed in 1916, and over the next 20 years, other island groups were added, including the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands.

Banaban residents started litigation proceedings against the British government to demand compensation for environmental damage caused by phosphate mining as well as recovery of lost phosphate export revenues in 1971. They soon demanded independence in 1975 but the British government refused. The Ellice Islands separated from the colony and eventually became part of Tuvalu. Eventually, the Gilbert Islands were able to establish internal self-government in 1977.

Kiribati National Day timeline

Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries
The first settlers Arrive

Samoan people migrate to the islands and Fijians and Tongans soon follow.

1943
Fighting Erupts on the islands

Japanese forces occupy the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony and fierce battles between Japan and the Allied forces ensue on the Tarawa Atoll.

1975
A divided colony

The Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands are divided into two separate territories.

July 12, 1979
An independent republic

The Gilbert Islands gains independence and changes its name to Kiribati.

Kiribati National Day FAQs

Is Kiribati a poor country?

Yes. It has a per capita Gross National Product of US$1,420 in 2010 which makes it the poorest country in Oceania.

What is Kiribati known for?

Kiribati is known as a tourist destination. Scuba diving, bird-watching, and fly fishing are popular activities.

What is the origin of the name Kiribati?

It’s pronounced as ‘Kiri-bas.’ The name comes from the local way the name “Gilbert” is said.

How to Observe Kiribati National Day

  1. Read up on Kiribati history

    They’ve gone from being an almost accidental British colony to a nuclear testing site, and a sinking country. Their background makes for interesting reading.

  2. Fly a kite

    Kite-flying is widely enjoyed during Independence Day in Kiribati. Get to an open space like a park and fly your kite as high as you can.

  3. Learn traditional Kiribati dance

    It’s distinguished from other Pacific Islander dance styles by the emphasis on the dancer’s outstretched arms and bird-like head movements. Whether it’s the oldest dance style called Ruoia, the most widely practiced Kaimatoa, or the Buki which is only performed by women, there’s a dance style that will suit your skill level.

5 Fascinating Facts About Kiribati

  1. It lies in all four hemispheres

    Its islands are widespread and lie on both sides of the equator which is the northern and southern hemispheres and also along the Prime Meridian of the globe which occupies the eastern and western hemispheres.

  2. Fresh water is scarce

    It’s a daily struggle to source water as the groundwater is affected by coastal erosion, flooding, and rising sea levels.

  3. Every New Year starts here

    This island nation is furthest ahead of Greenwich meantime at GMT+14.

  4. It was a nuclear weapon test site

    The British government detonated a series of hydrogen bombs near Christmas Island — now Kirimati — which is part of the Republic of Kiribati.

  5. It is sinking

    A rise in sea level due to global warming threatens to sink it completely beneath the sea within the next 50 years.

Why Kiribati National Day is Important

  1. It’s the largest coral atoll in the world

    Kiribati holds the distinction of being the world’s biggest coral atoll. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral island, reef, or series of islets.

  2. They need to be remembered as a whole before more of the islands disappear

    Two islets already sank below the sea by 1999. They need to be recognized as soon as one whole country as much as possible before more of it vanishes.

  3. They have an island called Christmas

    Most people associate the word “Christmas” with positive memories. How nice it is to have a place in your country with a name associated with a joyful holiday.

Kiribati National Day dates

YearDateDay
2023July 12Wednesday
2024July 12Friday
2025July 12Saturday
2026July 12Sunday
2027July 12Monday

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