Ever feel guilty for treating July 4th as nothing more than a day for barbeques and fireworks?
Itâ€™s not just you. The truth is, most people canâ€™t really define what we Americans are celebrating on July 4th. At best, itâ€™s the countryâ€™s â€œbirthday,â€ or Independence Day. At worst, itâ€™s a vortex of tidbits, factoids, and clichÃ©s unrelated to actual events.
The good news is you donâ€™t have to generate any faux patriotic feelings. With a little thought beforehand, you can celebrate July 4th naturally â€“ with passion and purpose.
Independence Day celebrations start with history. For example, did you know that the Declaration of Independence was not signed on the 4th of July? Itâ€™s true. The colonies were already at war with Great Britain when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on July 1st, 1776 to discuss secession. It took time to get the exact language of the document correct, with quibbles and revisions. The delegates who signed the Declaration didnâ€™t do so until August.
Action point: America as we think of it today began with the Jamestown settlement in 1620. That 150-year period before the split with England laid the cultural foundation for what would follow â€“ even to this day! Use the lead up to the July 4th to investigate the founding of your neighborhood, town, or city.
Historical reenactments provide drama, flourish, and context to events we might otherwise take for granted. Seeing actors at (John) Adams National Park outside of Boston â€œsignâ€ the Declaration of Independence will give you a new appreciation for the monumental event.
Action point: Find a reenactment event to watch, or go further and join a reenactment club.
If youâ€™re a Jay Leno fan, then you remember JayWalking. Thatâ€™s where he would interview people on the street about history. With a straight face, Leno would ask a simple question. In response, the person would fumble around for an answer (lots of â€œummsâ€ and â€œuhhsâ€) rather than just fess up and plead for mercy. It was hilarious.
Action point: Quizzes are great teaching tools. Design a short quiz on 4th of July facts and then do your own JayWalking segment with family members (theyâ€™ll love you for it!).
The 4th of July is most associated with soldiers and veterans. But serving your neighbors in some way — particularly the elderly, sick, or disabled â€“ is a great way to honor the holiday. Why? Because it was the heavy handedness of a distant, aloof King (George III) that led the colonists to revolt. They didnâ€™t like providing for the King while their own kin went without.
Action point: Offer to do something for a neighbor in needâ€¦ even if itâ€™s to invite them to your BBQ [link to BBQ article].
Enjoy yourself, responsibly.
A cold beer in July is awesome; a whole six-packâ€¦ not so much.
Action point: If you plan on drinking alcohol on the 4th of July, pace yourself. If thatâ€™s not possible, skip the booze entirely!
Firecrackers, bottle rockets, and Roman candles make a party. However, do them yourself and youâ€™ll a) spend money, b) make a mess, and c) worry about injury. Going to a firework show allows you to show up, watch, and leave at the end (with no responsibility). As a bonus, communal events like firework shows let you hear the oohs and ahs from the crowd.
Action point: Find a nearby fireworks show for the Fourth of July. Some smaller cities like Moses Lake, WA put on shows that, proportionately, rival the one Macyâ€™s sponsors in NYC.
Wave the flag proudly.
Hang it loud and proud, on your door and around the outside of your home, if youâ€™ve got the space. Itâ€™s such a wonderful holiday to remember those that gave us our independence.
Action point: Show your patriotism.
Make this yearâ€™s 4th of July even more special. Put these tips to work and youâ€™ll feel both a connection to our countryâ€™s origins and hope for the future.