From Europe to Africa to North America, 2017 is a year full of spectacular anniversaries – and plenty of travel opportunities. Jane Austen lovers can revel in the 200th anniversary of her birth, hikers can wind their way through Denali National Park and history buffs can visit Germany to honor Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses.
Founding of Denali National Park & Preserve – 100 Years
Despite the winter season, the Park Service is hosting birthday festivities this February that will include snowshoe walks, skiing, ranger-led bike rides, and the Human Hundred Centennial Challenge (which requires logging 100 human-powered miles across the terrain, be it on foot, ski, sled or by bike).
The Virgin Islands Become Part of the U.S.– 100 Years
This year is the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas from Denmark to the United States for $25 million. Plans for purchasing the islands began in 1867, with Secretary of State William Henry Seward hoping to extend U.S. territory and influence through peaceful means. But it wasn’t until after the sinking of the Lusitania in 1917 that the islands became truly important to U.S. foreign policy. At that point, the government, fearing the German annexation of Denmark could lead to Germany using the Danish West Indies as a naval base, opened negotiations to purchase the islands from the Scandinavian nation.
Located about 40 miles from Puerto Rico, the islands offer innumerable opportunities for exploring the natural world and the history of the Caribbean. Visitors can snorkel Hurricane Hole off St. John, a vibrant coral reef filled with a rare abundance of species, or stop by the Whim Plantation Museum on St. Croix to see an authentic Dutch sugar estate from the 1700s. To make the journey even more enticing, the U.S. Virgin Islands Centennial Commemoration is offering $300 in spending credits for anyone who comes to one of the three islands for three nights or more, books their travel before October 1, 2017, and stays at a participating hotel.
Ghana’s Independence – 60 Years
After decades of colonial rule, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African nation to throw off its European imperialists and declare independence on March 6, 1957. The independence movement was led by Kwame Nkrumah, who fought for sovereignty throughout Africa, saying “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.” Although Ghana dealt with corruption and economic mismanagement early in its history, it has since recovered and become a model of political reform. Celebrate Ghana’s independence with chichinga beef kabob while listening to horn and guitar infused Highlife music. To learn more about Ghana’s history and connection to the Atlantic slave trade, visit the slave castles that once served as fortified trading posts and later shifted to holding slaves.
Celebrations commemorating the anniversary will be held in the capital city of Accra, where an annual Independence Day Parade will be held on March 6.
Jane Austen’s Death – 200 Years
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley—Jane Austen has given the world some of its most memorable romantic entanglements. Though Austen never married, she created a world populated with love and longing and social blunders. Her stories have played a role in the public consciousness ever since.
Canada’s Independence – 150 Years
America’s neighbor to the north is celebrating a big anniversary in 2017: the 150th year of independence. Home to indigenous people for thousands of years, the country was first colonized by Vikings from Iceland at l’Anse aux Meadows on the island of Newfoundland. Several hundred years later, John Cabot’s 1497 expedition resulted in the first map of Canada’s east coast. In the following years, the nation was tugged between Britain and France, as its modern multilingual regions prove. As the country evolved and grew, the movement for a Canadian federation arose alongside the desire for a national railroad system and a solution to the conflict between French and British factions. Canada Day marks the occasion of three provinces becoming one country. On July 1, 1867, the Constitution Act united Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province (including Ontario and Quebec). In the following decade, the country acquired the provinces of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island as well as the possessions of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses – 500 Years
For the first decades of his life, Martin Luther was no more than an anonymous monk. But in 1517, after years of disagreeing with the practice of indulgences (in which parishioners could pay for their sins to be absolved without doing penance), he wrote a text that would profoundly shake and reshape religious tradition for the next 500 years. Luther’s 95 Theses criticized the Catholic Church, proclaimed the Bible as the central religious authority and claimed Christians could achieve salvation through their faith. His theses spurred the evolution of Protestantism, fracturing what had once been the central faith of Europe.
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther finishing his theses in Wittenberg, travel across Germany to learn about the age of Reformation. From museum exhibitions to church services, there are dozens of options for exploring Luther’s life and the impact of his teachings.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 125 Years
For fans of Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Britain’s preeminent detective, there’s reason to celebrate: 2017 marks the 125th year of the publishing of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle was a doctor by training, and wrote his Sherlock Holmes mysteries in his spare time, inspired by authors like Edgar Allen Poe. In addition to his medical and literary work, he also traveled as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling boat in the Arctic Circle and later to Africa. Eventually, after a virulent flu nearly killed him, Conan Doyle abandoned his medical career to focus solely on his writing.
Marie Curie’s Birth – 150 Years
Marie Curie was a woman of firsts. The first woman in Europe to receive a doctorate of science, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for physics with her husband and Henri Becquerel (for the discovery of radioactivity) and the first—and so far only—person to win a Nobel Prize in a second science (chemistry). Sadly, her work on radioactivity was also what ultimately ended her life.
Curie’s is a life well worth celebrating and 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of her birth. The Museum of Marie Sklodowska-Curie in Poland (where she was born) will feature a new exhibit in honor of her birth, and the Musée Curie in France (where she worked) offers several anniversary exhibits throughout the year.
Langston Hughes’s Death – 50 Years
Poet, novelist, jazz aficionado and one of the leading members of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes died 50 years ago this year. He wrote extensively about black life in America. Inspired by the likes of Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg, Hughes worked to give an honest perspective of life for African-Americans, which earned him a fair amount of criticism from other writers. But he was also an inspiration, and as Du Bose Heyward wrote in 1926, when Hughes was only 24, “always intensely subjective, passionate, keenly sensitive to beauty and possessed of an unfaltering musical sense.”
Finland’s Independence – 100 Years
Beginning as early as 1155, Finland slowly fell under the dominion of Sweden, the regional power. Despite hundreds of years of living under Swedish rule, the ethnic Finns maintained their language and gradually developed their own culture beyond that of more general Nordic culture, including music produced by the ancient string instrument called the kantele and their smoke saunas. In the beginning of the 19th century, Finland came under Russian control as a spoil of war between Sweden and Russia, becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy, which meant Finns had a role in governance but the Russian emperor in St. Petersburg was ultimately the highest ruler. But after more than 100 years under Russia, the country sought its independence. In 1917, taking advantage of the Russian Revolution, the Finnish Parliament approved a declaration of independence, resulting in a civil war and ultimately the establishment of the Finnish republic.