Tanzania Independence Day: How to Celebrate Around the World

Last updated on November 13th, 2023 at 01:38 pm

Tanzanian nationals who live abroad may feel nostalgic around December 9th, which marks Tanzania’s Independence Day. Thousands of Tanzanians live outside the East African country, as far away as the United States and the United Kingdom and as close as Kenya, Burundi, or Rwanda. Many of them study and work to support family back home.

No matter what, Tanzanians can have a special and commemorative Independence Day celebration. Keep reading this guide created by our team here at Remitly to know more about Tanzania’s Independence Day and how it’s celebrated worldwide.

Tanzania Independence Day

The meaning of Tanzanian Independence Day

Tanzania’s Independence Day is about more than national flags and military parades—although those are important.

Independence Day celebrates a big milestone in the history of Tanzania, where the struggle for independence took years. In fact, independence in Tanzania was achieved recently enough that the oldest generations alive today may remember the country’s very first Independence Day celebrations.

European colonialism of the region began in the late 19th century with the formation of German East Africa. After World War I, British control of Tanzania began. At that time, most of the modern-day country was called Tanganyika, and the island of Zanzibar was ruled as a separate colonial jurisdiction.

In 1954, Julius Nyerere launched a non-violent independence movement against British rule through the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). He became inspired to promote his Africanist political agenda and fight for independence after seeing Mahatma Gandhi’s success in India.

Nyerere united regional tribes and fought for an independent Tanganyika through the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). In 1961, his efforts succeeded, winning independence for mainland Tanzania with Zanzibar remaining under colonial control through the rule of the Sultan of Zanzibar.

After three years of co-existence with the sultanate, Julius Nyerere launched the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, overthrowing the sultan and creating a united republic called Tanzania.

Unifying Tanzania into one democratic republic with national elections was quite an achievement in the diverse region. At the time, over 130 languages were spoken between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

For that reason, the national holiday of Independence Day is about more than removing British rule. The people of the United Republic of Tanzania are also reminded of the power of unification and working together towards a common goal.

Facts about Tanzania Independence Day

Before we get into the specifics of how people celebrate Independence Day in Tanzania, let’s explore the answers to a couple of common questions about the holiday.

When is Tanzania Independence Day?

Tanzania celebrates its independence on December 9. The date coincides with the day independence was won and when Tanganyika joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961.

Is Tanzania Independence Day a public holiday?

Yes, the annual event is a public holiday in Tanzania. Government offices, schools and many businesses close to allow Tanzanians to celebrate the nation’s independence.

What is Republic Day in Tanzania?

Republic Day is another name for the December 9th holiday. It refers to the establishment of a unified Tanzania after Zanzibar was liberated.

How people celebrate Tanzania Independence Day

Each year, people look forward to Tanzanian Independence Day celebrations. Some events have become annual traditions, but there have been special additions to the festivities over the years.

For example, when Tanzania commemorated its 60th Independence Day anniversary, 300 Tanzanians reenacted a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to symbolize the independence struggle and eventual liberation.

In 2022, President Samia Suluhu Hassan canceled the formal celebrations and redirected the US$445,000 set aside in the annual budget for the festivities to build dormitories for students with special needs. He followed in the footsteps of President John Magufuli, who used funds for the celebration to build a new road to Dar es Salaam in 2015 and to revamp medical facilities in 2020.

On years when the celebrations are in full swing, the following are some of the ways that Tanzanians observe the holiday.

Listening to or watching the presidential address

A presidential address usually kicks off the celebrations on December 9th. Other political speeches may be given before and after.

Many people gather to see and hear the speeches in person. For those who can’t attend, the event is usually broadcast on the radio and television, and more recently, it has been streamed on the Internet.

Attending the military parade

Another big part of the celebrations of independence is the military parade. The largest one takes place in Dar es Salaam, but other cities and villages may hold their own parades.

Heading to National Stadium

Most years, there is a big daylong event at Tanzania’s National Stadium. Music groups give live performances, and troupes perform traditional dances throughout the day.

Flying flags

If you’re in Tanzania on December 9th, you’ll see the national flag flying in public places and outside homes. Tanzania adopted its flag on June 30, 1964.

It consists of the following:

  • Upper green triangle, which symbolizes Tanzania’s agricultural resources
  • Lower blue triangle, which represents the Indian Ocean and Tanzania’s many rivers and lakes, including Lake Tanganyika, the second-largest lake in the world by volume and depth
  • A central black diagonal band, a symbol of the Swahili people of Tanzania
  • Two yellow diagonal stripes, a reference to the mineral wealth of Tanzania

Enjoying delicious Tanzania Independence Day foods

Many families prepare special foods to enjoy while celebrating Tanzania’s independence. Some things you’ll often find on the menu include:

  • Ugali, corn meal made by boiling maize or corn flour that can be used to make biscuits or porridge
  • Mchicha, a dish consisting of leafy greens prepared with coconut and peanut butter
  • Mandazi, a crispy fried bread made with coconut milk, flour, sugar, water and yeast
  • Mchuzi wa Samaki, a spicy curried fish dish

Sending greetings on social media

Around 86% of the population of Tanzania uses smartphones, and posting greetings that celebrate Tanzania’s independence have become part of the annual traditions. People often use the hashtag #RepublicDayTanzania or #IndependenceDayTanzania in their messages.

How to celebrate Tanzanian Independence Day abroad

Even when Tanzanians are far from home, there are many ways they enjoy the holiday:

Cooking favorite traditional Tanzanian foods

Enjoy a taste of home by preparing some of your favorite Tanzanian foods for the holiday. If you need some inspiration, check out foodmoodtanzania on Instagram or search YouTube for recipe tutorials.

Hosting a potluck for friends and family

Plan a gathering with your loved ones and have everyone bring a favorite dish. Potluck gatherings can be a great way to share Tanzanian culture and history with the friends you’ve made in your new country.

Getting in touch with history

Given that Tanzania gained independence in 1961, it’s possible to find film footage, including colorized film, of the original celebrations. So why not bring history to life by watching historical videos?

Watching Tanzanian films

Throw your own Tanzanian film festival with a selection of movies. Some films to add to your lineup include:

  • Bahasha (2018)
  • Binti (2021)
  • Dar Noir (2015)
  • EONII (2023)
  • Fatuma (2018)
  • Magic House (2009)
  • Mkwawa (2011)
  • Mr Local Man (2019)
  • She Is My Sister (2007)

Listening to favorite Tanzanian music

Create a playlist of Tanzanian music to listen to throughout the day. You can also check out the Tanzanian Traditional Mix playlist on Spotify.

Planning to visit Tanzania

December can be a great time to visit Tanzania, so consider arranging a trip home to see your loved ones. You can also have an early Christmas celebration during your stay.

Tanzanian communities in the United States

Most Tanzanians living abroad have settled or are working and studying in the United States. This means there are many resources for Tanzanian nationals living there. For example, local associations may host Independence Day celebrations. The Tanzanian Embassy in the US has an extensive list of local groups.

Some organizations you might want to connect with are The Tanzanian Community in DMV and the Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America (DICOTA)

Many local and online stores sell goods from Tanzania and East Africa. Some examples include KovaFood and the ER African Market.

Tanzanian immigrants in the United Kingdom

Given the history between the U.K. and Tanzania, there are also many Tanzanian nationals in the United Kingdom. For that reason, you can find several cultural associations to support the immigrant community. These include:

There are also many East-African or Pan-Africa grocery stores across Britain. Several will also deliver to your doorstep. Some places to look at are:

Tanzania Independence Day

Sending money to Tanzania

We know how important it is to stay connected with your culture and loved ones back home. That’s why our team at Remitly makes it easy to send money to friends and family in Tanzania. Our app securely transfers money to a bank account, mobile wallet, or cash pickup location across Tanzania.

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