The Story Behind National Anthems

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 4th Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Culture>General

Basically a national anthem is a eulogy of a nation's history, pride, traditions, principles, and struggles of its people set to music.

Oh Canada

I always thought that the government of the land decided what the National Anthem of that country would be. However when I did a google search I found that a National Anthem could be adopted by convention; in other words the will of the people. National Anthems can be simply popular folk songs.

I should have realized that, I am a Canadian living in the province of Quebec, and Canada has the official national anthem, Oh Canada, which is sung in French and English, but Quebec has her own national anthem, adopted by the French people by convention, sentimentality, and a fierce pride for their French heritage.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Countries can adapt more than one national anthem. Oh Canada was first sung on June 24, 1880. It was Hon. Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Théodore Robitaille, who commissioned the sung for the St. Jean Baptiste Celebration. It was not adopted as the National Anthem of the Country until one hundred years and one week later, on July 1, 1980.

Gens du Pays, by Gilles Vigneault, is the unofficial national anthem adopted by the citizens of Quebec. French Queberers sing their song at most major functions including end of the year company parties. It is a time to love, a time to live, a time to laugh and take pride in Quebec, the land of their birth.

The USA also has a few patriotic songs. the widely known Stars and Stripes Forever, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic and of course The Star Spangled Banner.

The Star Spangled Banner is the official National Anthem. Created as a poem by Francis Scott Key in 1814, the song became the national anthem by a congressional resolution in 1931. Prior to that time there was also the Hail Columbia, acting anthem, from early American history onward.

Stars and Stripes Forever was designated by an act of congress in 1896 as the National March of the United States of America. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, first appearing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862, is another American Patriotic Anthem dating back to the Civil War Days.

Waltzing Matilda

he oldest National Anthem is Het Wilhelmus, written around 1568 - 1572, for the Dutch people during the Dutch Revolt. During this period forward several other national anthems surfaced in Europe and became very popular in Europe in the 19th century. With the rise of Nation states during 19th and 20th century, National Anthems spread to other colonized areas and were adopted once nationhood status was granted.

The National Anthem that has always intrigued me the most is the Australian Waltzing Matilda. I was taught in school long ago that it was the National Anthem of Australia. I now find that it is the unofficial National Anthem, and it is in fact a folk song.

Waltzing Matilda is a song about a swagman, (a itinerant worker) who was caught stealing a jumbuck, (a sheep) to eat. The police come after him but rather than let them capture him he drowned himself in the billabong (water hole, or lake) and forever haunts the site.

This song written by the poet nationalist Banjo Patterson in 1895 and is so popular it has its own museum. Waltzing Matilda was played at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. It is quite a lovely song which I really did not understand until I googled what swagman, billabong, Jumbuck, and waltz Matilda (to travel with a swag) meant.

According to the Australian Government the official National Anthem adopted on April 19, 1984 is the Advance Australia Fair. There were three possible choices, Advance Australia Fair, Waltzing Matilda, and song of Australia, with Advance Australia Fair receiving the majority vote (54 percent). I have never heard Advance Australia Fair, but I certainly love that hauntingly beautiful Waltzing Matilda, with the melody and strange words to boot.

All photos taken from the public domain
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American Flag, Canadian Flag, Flags, National Anthems, Stars And Stripes Forever, The Battle Hymn Of The Republic, The Star Spangled Banner, Waltzing Matilda

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author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
4th Nov 2015 (#)

Interesting Post!

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author avatar Retired
4th Nov 2015 (#)

I wrote a post some time ago about the British National Anthem, which also has a fascinating history.

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author avatar spirited
6th Nov 2015 (#)

"I found that a National Anthem could be adopted by convention; in other words the will of the people."

This wasn't so in Australia for most of its existence up to 1984, anyway.

The British national anthem "God save the queen" (sorry Queen, "queen" might refer to something else, LOL) was forced onto us up until then.

The insipid "Advance Australia Fair" doesn't really cut it with the true aussies, we much prefer, Waltzing Matilda, too.

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author avatar Lesa Cote
18th Sep 2018 (#)

This is truly an interesting blog on national anthem. Thanks for sharing.

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