Call the holiday what it really is
Did you ever fall for this old trivia question: “Do they have the Fourth of July in England?”
Of course they do. They also have the third and the fifth. 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 Wednesday, 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 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 a 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 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.
And because it’s not so conveniently placed in the middle of the week this time, we thought we’d better give you a healthy head start on planning if you’d like to see some fireworks.
• St. Mary’s College of Maryland will set some off at the end of the next installment of its free River Concert Series this evening, Friday, June 29. The grounds open at 5 p.m., and the music starts at 7.
• The Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department will light the fuse tomorrow, Saturday, June 30, on its 10th annual Independence Day celebration on the carnival grounds at the firehouse off Route 235. Gates open at 5 p.m., with live music, carnival rides and games before the big show.
• Also that day, there will be a celebration sponsored by the Golden Beach and Patuxent Knolls Civic Association. A parade will be held Saturday morning, and capping it all off will be fireworks at night. Some roads will be closed in the Golden Beach neighborhood from 10 a.m. to noon, and from 7 to 10 p.m. Check www.ourgoldenbeach.com for more details.
• And on the actual holiday, Wednesday, July 4, you can see the fireworks display on Solomons Island after dusk, around 9:15 p.m. It’s sponsored by the Solomons Business Association.
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 242nd 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.