Separation Day

Panama National Holiday in Panama

Panama City Skyline, Panama

When is Separation Day?

This holiday is always celebrated on 3 November. Known as Separation Day, this holiday celebrates the independence of Panama from Colombia in 1903. It is Panama's National Day.

Panama has an Independence Day public holiday on 28 November, but that holiday marks independence from Spain in 1821.

History of Separation Day

Though home to indigenous tribes, Panama came under Spanish control with the arrival of settlers in the 16th century. From 1538 until 1821 Panama was governed as part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

On 28 November 1821, Panama become independent from Spain as the region was a department within the Republic of Greater Colombia.

Despite this first step towards independence, Panamanians had a enduring desire to become their own nation, coming close to independence from Colombia in 1831, when Ecuador and Venezuela left Gran Colombia.

In 1903, Colombia and Panama disagreed on whether the U.S. should be allowed to build a canal across Panama. With the support of the U.S., Panama broke away from Colombia on 3 November 1903.

The canal was completed in 1914, and the area around the canal remained U.S. territory until 1979 and final U.S. involvement only ceased on 31 December 1999.

How is Separation Day Celebrated?

Celebrations across the country will include firework displays and parades, especially in the capital, Panama City.

Flag Day

On 4 November each year, Panama has a public holiday for Flag Day. The Panamanian flag was designed and made by María de la Ossa de Amador on 1 November 1903. A different design for the flag was originally submitted, based on the U.S. flag marking their support for Panamanian independence, but the design was rejected by the Panamanian leader at the time. This holiday is celebrated on 4 November as it forms a bridge day between Separation Day and Colon Day.

Colon Day

On 5 November, the final day of the three public holidays is Colon Day. This holiday celebrates the events of 1903, when the citizens of Colon averted a march on Panama City by the Colombian army.

Following the declaration of independence, the Colombians had ordered their army to march on Panama. On 5 November 1903, the locals in Colons managed to convince the Colombian forces stationed in Colon not to advance on Panama City. Without this action, it is possible that the Colombians may have gained a military advantage and quelled the independence movement.

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