Thursday, July 3, 2008

Friday the Fourth

I’m happy for the Fourth of July to fall on Friday, giving us a nice mid-summer, three-day weekend, without having to make a special law. Besides, who wants to celebrate the Fourth of July on the third or the fifth? I do not like generic holidays, even for an extra day off, mixed up, so that I don’t know the difference anymore between Memorial Day and Veterans Day or Christmas and Easter. July 4th is America’s birthday, July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, with full knowledge aforethought that a price in the King’s gold would be set on the head of each signer.

Nowadays, we remember Independence Day with fireworks and double-header baseball games, parades and outings. Politicians and candidates to be politicians give speeches. Barbeques and picnics feed people in backyards and parks from coast to coast. The biggest celebrations are on the San Francisco Bay, the East River in New York, Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Charles River in Boston, and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., including patriotic music concerts and fireworks spectaculars. Atlanta runs a 10k Road Race down Peachtree Street. Brooklyn’s Coney Island hot dog eating competition started on July 4, 1916, among four immigrants to prove who was the most patriotic. The town of Bristol, Rhode Island, may have the oldest, continuous July 4th celebration, begun in 1785.

In 1776, John Adams believed Independence Day “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” In 1778, General George Washington authorized a Fourth of July double-ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Ambassadors to France John Adams and Benjamin Franklin gave dinners for their fellow Americans in Paris, starting a tradition that continues today at American Embassies worldwide where the Fourth of July celebration is a favorite of the diplomatic community in all the world capitals. Founding Fathers and Presidents of the United States John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence both had signed. James Monroe, also a Founding Father and President, died five years later, on July 4, 1831.

George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “real live nephew of my Uncle Sam” was artfully born on the Fourth of July, but not the songwriter himself, whose actual date of birth was the 3rd.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

5 comments:

Tina said...

Although I do love American history, please please don't make me drink a double ration of rum.
In fact, I can't even handle a single ration of rum. So I will hoist my iced tea or diet Coke and say Happy Fourth of July to one and all!

No spring chicken said...

I really love those guys, both for their courage and for their elegant minds.
I am going over to the nursing home at 4 p.m. to take our uncle a couple of hot dogs with chili and slaw on the side, potato chips and some cold cut-up watermelon. I think after reading your column that I'll stop by the dollar store and buy a little flag to go with it.

Paw Paw Bill said...

Your uncle is a lucky man. We are all lucky to live in a country whose Founding Fathers were such brave hearts and elegant minds.

tommy said...

Bill,

this column is all dressed up with nowhere to go. You paint an eloquent picture of the birth of the holiday, with little known, interesting facts, and then just end the piece before you've gone anywhere. Or did I miss something. The post I read ended on the third of July almost a couple hundred years ago. So much more ground to cover, and after reading the first couple paragraphs, I was looking forward to the journey.

Tommy

PS The guy who's stopping by the dollar store to buy a flag for his Uncle is, sadly, contributing to the balance of trade defecit, which further undermines the value of the dollar. We're all guilty. Be a real patriot - BUY AMERICAN!!

Paw Paw Bill said...

Thank you for your considered comments. You may not be surprised to learn you are far from the first to ask me, "So, what's your point?" I do not always have a good answer. In this case, just think of it as my way of singing, "Happy Birthday."

 

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