U.S. President Barack Obama will be sworn in for a second term on Monday in a highly choreographed inauguration ceremony on the National Mall. Some of the traditions surrounding the inauguration are codified by law -- the actual swearing-in occurs as close as possible to noon since that's when the last presidential term officially ends according to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution -- while others are customs that have emerged over time: the now de rigueur presidential stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue dates back only to 1977, when Jimmy Carter did it as a populist gesture; John F. Kennedy began the tradition of having an inaugural poet when he invited Robert Frost to read in 1961. But how do other countries inaugurate their leaders?
Most countries with presidential systems have some kind of pomp-filled inauguration ceremony. (Prime ministers tend to be sworn in with less fanfare in parliament.) Many presidents take an oath of office -- some more religious than others -- and give an inaugural address to the nation. Parades through the capital and military reviews are also pretty standard fare. But there are some intriguing local variations.
The inauguration of the Mongolian president, for instance, includes several days of celebrations, including wrestling matches -- the president doesn't participate, unfortunately. The cost of the celebrations was criticized in 2009, so presidential Wrestlemania may not last forever. In Turkmenistan, the president is traditionally sworn in standing on a white felt mat -- a symbol of good luck -- and is given "bread and salt as a symbol of prosperity and well being" and a "quiver with arrows symbolizing the people's unity." In Tanzania, the president receives a symbolic spear and shield when he is sworn in. Most Latin American leaders also wear presidential sashes that they receive at their inaugurations.
Presidents also frequently add their own personal touches. In 2006, a day before his official swearing-in, Bolivian President Evo Morales -- the country's first indigenous leader -- held a traditional ceremony at a sacred pre-Incan site, where, "barefoot and dressed as a sun priest, he received a baton, encrusted with gold, silver and bronze, that will symbolize his Indian leadership."
Tributes to national heroes are common during inaugurations. The motorcade of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee made a stop at a monument to Mohandas Gandhi en route to his swearing-in. The president of Taiwan is sworn in while standing before a portrait of the country's founder, Sun Yat-sen.
Russia's inaugurations are notable for including a ceremony in which the "nuclear briefcase," containing the codes to the country's arsenal, is handed over to the new president. In France, the outgoing president holds a private meeting with his successor on inauguration day during which the nuclear codes are handed over. In the United States, the handover of Armageddon-unleashing power is a bit more subtle. During the swearing-in ceremony, the military aide carrying the so-called "nuclear football" -- who stays with the president at all times -- crosses the stage to stand by the new leader.