Did you ever fall for this one: “Do they have the Fourth of July in England?”
Of course they do. They also have the third and the fifth of July. They just don’t recognize it as one of the ultimate “it’s not me, it’s you” moments in Western civilization.
The nation’s big holiday is coming up Thursday, and would it harm anyone to call it by its proper name: Independence Day? Of course not.
What’s more, it might give us a real appreciation of what the holiday is all about.
And dare we mention that July 4 is not even the correct date? You can take Founding Father John Adams’ word for it.
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America,” Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail. That was on July 3, 1776.
So why do we celebrate on July 4? Blame Congress, historian Pauline Maier tells us.
“In 1777, Congress didn’t think of recalling the event until it was too late to celebrate the second, and the fourth became standard,” she said.
John Adams, who in later years became our first vice president and second president, chose July 2 because the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence on that day, and no one had greater authority to make that call than he did. His “claim to share in the glory of independence was well founded,” Maier said. “He did far more than Thomas Jefferson to bring Congress to the point of approving separation from Britain.”
By July 4, members of the Continental Congress had only to approve a final draft of the declaration — and then scramble out of Philadelphia before being felled by either the summer heat or the British.
The first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” did not occur until 1791, according to several sources. In 1870, Congress made it an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
Now, of course, it’s a full-blown holiday, worthy of all the pomp and circumstance we can whip up.
For those in Cecil County, there are plenty of opportunities to see the rockets’ red glare:
• On Wednesday, July 3, the Salute to Cecil County Veterans will host fireworks at dusk and military displays, live music, food, raffles, face painting, sand art, inflatables and other family-friendly activities starting at 6 p.m. at North East Community Park.
• On Thursday, July 4, Elkton will hold its “Fireworks Extravaganza” in Meadow Park. Gates will open to the public at 5 p.m., and the event will include a family-friendly DJ and a variety of local food vendors. The fireworks show will start at dusk.
• On Thursday, July 4, The Chateau Bu-De Winery, located at 237 Bohemia Manor Farm Lane in Chesapeake City, will hold a fireworks show and festivities from 2 to 9 p.m. The event comes with a $10 entrance fee per car, but features live music beginning at 4 p.m. and a fireworks show at dusk. Food and drink are available for purchase.
• Finally, on Friday, July 5, the Chesapeake City Chamber of Commerce will hold a fireworks show. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with live music and vendors along Bohemia Avenue in front of the town hall, as well as around Pell Gardens. Fireworks begin around 9 p.m. over the C&D Canal.
In the midst of all the cookouts, festivals and fun, though, we should certainly remain aware of what the holiday is all about in the first place. It’s the 243rd anniversary of when 56 patriots signed the Declaration of Independence, mutually pledging “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
You’ll notice they didn’t sign the Declaration of the Fourth.
So let’s drop the ordinal number and call it what it is. Perhaps that would help us better appreciate those who put their lives on the line to secure the “unalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.