A barbecue on the grill, watching fireworks, and waving flags–maybe a parade. Those are the traditional Independence Day activities for most Americans.
If you want to make your annual celebration a little more meaningful, and add some unique fun, remember these few patriotic rituals that can bring to life the history of the day.
My family loves to celebrate our country’s birthday and has followed these traditions every year for a decade now. Check them out and let us know about your own traditions, posting them in a comment below.
Sign Your Own Declaration of Independence
We bought a replica copy of the Declaration document in a museum shop 12 years ago that looked every bit–and felt exactly like–how I would imagine old-fashioned parchments.
Every year, we carefully unfold our Declaration and invite guests to sign it. In between the John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson are James Schneider and his daughter Catherine.
Listen to The Reading of the Declaration
Reading the full five parts of the founding US document, written mostly by Jefferson, takes a bit of commitment and seriousness, but listening to it read by radio professionals is an enjoyable 9-minutes.
Every year, National Public Radio airs the annual reading of the Declaration, recorded by twenty-nine of the network’s on-air personalities and reporters. The mood is reverent, with the soft playing of patriot fifes in the background, as Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg and their colleagues read aloud.
From the start to the conclusion, the magnificent annual broadcast is nine minutes worth dedicating every year.
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Make a Flag You Can Eat
Most regions of the country have fresh blue and red berries this time of year, so it’s easy to use blueberries and strawberries in your food and drinks:
You can easily create American flag designs on cakes or plates by using strawberries for the stripes and blueberries for the starred blue background.
Also, make a jug of herbal mixed berry tea or homemade sangria and garnish with a handful of the fresh fruit. Don’t forget to use whipped cream where appropriate to provide the white portion to complete the trio of patriotic colors.
Get a Full-Sized Flag Because They Are Fun to Fold
Some keep flags in their yard all year round. However, it is wonderful to have a full-sized flag to drape during holidays a couple times each year from your deck or garage door. One such flag was presented to our family when a relative passed away and every Fourth we unfold it, and hang it from the tall deck railing. The best part is folding it at the end of the weekend.
You can fold it into a snug triangle using two people pulling it taut–one on each end–and tuck it away until the next time. Here’s how…
Play John Philip Sousa’s March, Stars and Strips Forever
Leonard Bernstein called it one of the greatest songs ever written, and nobody plays it better than the National Symphony Orchestra on the West Lawn of the Capitol on the Fourth of July.
The best way to hear the song is while viewing the fireworks exploding over the Washington Monument on a PBS public television station’s A Capitol Fourth program. Set up to record it on your DVR while you are out for live fireworks, and come home to watch the broadcast, with full symphony and multiple cameras directed live from the nation’s capital from WETA-TV. You can also watch it LIVE online.
Watch the US Air Force Ceremonial Brass on A Capitol Fourth in 2011 performing a medley of marches (Stars and Stripes begins at 5:24)