Beach parties – a popular way to celebrate for at least 100 years- might be a tricky challenge in the U.S. Northeast this weekend. The threatening rainy weather may not be conducive to a day of fun in the sun.
A few essential elements have always been a part of Independence Day celebrations – a flag, speeches, fireworks, parades and lemonade. But face it – back in the ‘good old days’ parties and speeches probably were not as much fun as we thought they’d be.
Even though our country has always had its flaws, the spirit that predominates our nation is our determination to right our wrongs. The Fourth is a time to pause and assess our country’s strengths and weaknesses and a time to pledge we shall each do our part to make this country a better place.
The emigrants crossing the prairie and the Great American Plains in the mid 1800s paused in their dangerous trek to commemorate the blessings they received in our country. Some people went to great lengths – sewing a flag out of old bed sheets and scraps of material, as I describe, based on diaries of women making the dangerous trek, in my third book Pioneer Passage. The pioneers celebrated the festive occasion with entertainment created from whatever they could find, inventing some hilarious ways to blow off steam. The holiday brought the blessed relief of complete respite from the drudgery and horrors of the trail.
The ceremonies, even out in the middle of the wilderness, were far more formal than today.
Back in 1927, when my five-month old mother (pictured left) attended the “orations” and the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, my grandfather (and grandmother -taking the picture) were dressed to the nines. (An expression around since before 1850 – Wikipedia says it originated in Scotland, and means ‘to perfection’, but other references suggest the phrase derives from high fashion dresses using at least nine yards of fabric.)
Garrison Keillor describes a contemporary, if old fashioned (circa 1950s) Independence Day Parade and Celebration in Lake Wobegon that has its moments of hysterical desperation in Liberty. The day includes a human flag, and a long parade with high school bands and fire trucks.
So let’s hope for a parade and get out and celebrate. Celebrate our history and our ability to learn from our mistakes. Loosen your bow tie, put on your raincoat and hope the fireworks can dodge the raindrops. OR – make some new memories by inventing new customs for Independence Day you and your friends and family can do rain or shine.
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