Today, 15th of August, is a national holiday in many countries around the world, including many Catholic countries (Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Poland, many Latin American countries, etc.) and Orthodox countries (Greece, Russia), but also in Japan, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Bahrain or Egypt. Yet, almost all of them celebrate something different, and dozens of other events could be celebrated.

Japan, Korea and Hawaii commemorate the end of WWII in the Asia-Pacific region. 15th August also coincide with the establishement of the Republic of Korea (in 1948).

India, Bangladesh and Bahrain remember their respective independence day. In Egypt, it is the Flooding of the Nile that is celebrated.

The Catholic and Orthodox celebrate the Dormition and Assumption of Virgin Mary. Interestingly, it is not a public holiday in very Catholic Ireland.

Poland, the most Catholic European country with Ireland, holds the Polish Armed Forces Day on this religious holiday, so they have two celebrations. Greece, the seat of Orthodox Christianity, also has its Armed Forces Day on 15 August, as if to find a way to satisfy both secular and religious people.

Italy also avoided a Catholic-only holiday by commemorating an ancient Roman holiday in honor of Augustus (Feriae Augusti).

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15 August 1769, and France used to celebrate the Saint Napoleon during the Empire (1804-1814). Some people claim that the modern national holiday is still held in his honour and not for the Asumption.

If you look at the major historical events that happened on 15 August, you will notice that it is a particularily meaningful date.

It is when Charlemagne suffered his worst military defeat, at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (778), in which Roland was killed (as romantically remember in the Song of Roland, the oldest major work of French literature).

It is the foundation date of several militaro-religious orders, like the Knights of Rhodes (in 1309) or the Jesuits (in 1534).

It is the day of the foundation of Panama City (capital of Panama) and Ascuncion (capital of Paraguay). The Panama Canal opened to traffic on 15 August 1915.

On 15 August 1461, the Empire of Trebizond surrenders to the forces of Sultan Mehmet II, marking the real end of the Byzantine Empire, and thus the end of Greek-speaking and Christian influence in the Near and Middle East.

It is also on this 15 August that were founded the Cathedral of Cologne (once the tallest building in the world), and the Cathderal of Honolulu (the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the USA).

One of the most important event in recent economic history took place on 15 August 1971. It is when President Richard Nixon ended the convertibility of the United States dollar into gold, changing the millenia-old significance of gold in the value of currency.

In short, 15th August is a contradictory day for Catholic and Orthodox people. It is a liturgical feast of both religions, and maks the founding of two very important Catholic orders and Catholic cathedrals. Yet it is also the remembrance of the end of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, and the debacle of Charlemagne, official defender of the Catholic church, in Muslim Spain. It is weird to hold a Christian holiday on the anniversary of two of the worst Christian defeats against the Muslims.

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