Happy 248th

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” —Erma Bombeck

John Adams, ever cantankerous with tightly held views matched by genius, always contended that July 2nd was the birthday of the nation — it was the date the Continental Congress voted for independence from Britain. Yet a document, the Declaration of Independence, was approved and adopted by that Congress on July 4th and the 4th was thus deemed the official birthday. Though proclaimed a state holiday in Massachusetts in 1781, the Fourth of July was not declared a federal holiday until 1870, a paid federal holiday in 1941. John Adams though did accurately predict independence days going forward: “It will be celebrated with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

Like Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July is truly an American holiday. Both these high holidays are celebrated by Americans in-country and out. Parks, backyards, main streets across the country are chalk-a-block with Americans grouped for pleasure, to cheer, to admire be they solo or generation-deep families. American embassies and individuals across the globe hold 4th of July celebrations — the ones I have attended were held outside with volleyball, dancing, lemonade, beer, fireworks, concerts, all casual and friendly. Both the Fourth and Thanksgiving are holidays centered on people, on families, friends, community — being joyfully together, gathered, celebrating. Nothing imperial, nothing stiffly military, not tanks tearing up asphalt, not marching troops sweltering in uniforms, in America rather everyone is in shorts, T’s, flipping burgers, streaming red, white, and blue from trike or bike handles, lining streets, kicking back.

Our two secular American holidays are rapt with traditions: foods — hot dogs and burgers on one, turkey on the other; on Thanksgiving reenactments of key events, on the Fourth a plethora of flags, bunting, red, white and blue everything, everywhere. American flags a plenty wave right side up, to code, outside of federal buildings, businesses, homes in all income neighborhoods. As per Johnny Cash: “On second thought, I do like to brag….’Cause I’m mighty proud of the ragged old flag.”

Symbols of America from flags to parades, to fireworks, to ball games, to the Statue of Liberty are revered and respected.

Whether in blistering heat, pouring rain, or following a raucous political debate, may the Fourth of July 2024 bring forth celebrative cheer and community for us all. Bite into a burger, chug a beer, sip ice tea, cheer a fond float, pound your foot to a local band – hail the good spirit of a nation whooping it up for its 248th birthday.

Kathy Herald-Marlowe lives in Sharon.

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