As we celebrate 243 years of independence tomorrow, it’s hard to remember that our most important national holiday is but a newbie to global festivities. In comparison, the Chinese New Year is believed to be over 3,000 years old, while the Persian celebration of Nowruz survived Alexander the Great way back in 333 BC.
A quick peek at websites like On This Day provides ooodles of interesting things to celebrate such as the birth or death of famous authors, presidents, or activists. In addition, they note historical moments that help us remember the social and cultural climate of the time. For lovers of dead tree reading, books also exist to keep us informed of benchmarks in our history, like this library copy of The American Book of Days.
At 945 pages long, it’s clear that Americans love their celebrations.
That said, long before we became America, the land was already filled with celebration. Indigenous peoples across the country ushered in the return of the sun with spring time festivities and celebrated the life of those who came before them. Native ceremonies encompassed the natural world and often lasted a week or more compared to the single day, anniversary-type holidays European Americans tend to focus on.
New though Europeans and their traditions are to this land, here are some Fourth of July facts to get you through the weekend.
- The Continental Congress decided on July 2, 1776, to declare their independence.
- Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th.
- It wasn’t signed until August 2nd, and Great Britain didn’t get the memo until November.
- As of July 1776, an estimated 2.5 million people lived in our newly independent nation. That number has swelled to an estimated 329,091,242.
How do all those people celebrate? With parades, fireworks, family and friends, water sports, and barbecues and beer. Unfortunately, all this fun combines to make the Fourth of July a dangerous time of year. In fact, it ranks as the highest US holiday for personal injury–in large part due to fireworks. Sparklers burn at roughly 2,000 degrees, contributing to the high rates of hand and eye burns. Other risk factors include traffic and boating accidents.
What do we eat? Meat. Billions of dollars of meat. $1,522,000 in 2017 to be exact. Beef tops the grill more often than any other, with chicken a distant second and pork coming in third. In addition, we don’t like our meat naked. Instead, we slather on the teriyaki and Worcestershire sauces.
My wish as I prepare simple shredded turkey sandwiches for my family over the Fourth of July weekend is that we celebrate our diversity as well as our inclusion. I pray for the safety of those who choose to enjoy the revelry that goes with this holiday. And most of all, I hope that someday, we will all find independence.
As I say to my kids when they leave the house, “Be good, be safe, and have fun!”
happy celebrating~ jody
For more information on celebrations, please check out some of the resources I used.