If you're a U.S. citizen above the age of 6, you must know the why of Independence Day. July 4 was the date when John Hancock put his enormous signature to the Declaration of Independence, and the 55 other signers followed suit. Early on, the day was commemorated with cannon fire, oratory, celebratory dinners, toasts, "sky rockets," the occasional "musical drama," and, strangely enough, the playing of a dirge. George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum, perhaps for those toasts. One hopes they weren't firing their cannons afterward.
So, therein lie the roots of modern July Fourth celebrations. Celebratory eating and drinking, fireworks, and, for some, a little too much rum. Tomorrow at the National Archives, a dramatic interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, set to music--a.k.a., a musical drama--will mark the day. And no doubt, politicians across the land will deliver orations on freedom.
Our local July Fourth commemoration will be a bit more elaborate than in years past, or so the weekly newspaper says. After a day of live music and funnel cakes, we'll have a reading of the Declaration, set to music. More fireworks, too, and for a small town, we have pretty decent fireworks already.
It's not just about Independence Day, though. It's also to celebrate the beginning of a long-awaited road construction project. The intersection dubbed "Malfunction Junction" will be replaced by two new roundabouts, to streamline the path through town, and people are so excited by their promised freedom from traffic snarls that they've donated extra for the party.
Which is to say that we have plenty to celebrate in this country, from the profound to the practical. However your city, town or family commemorates the day, and whatever you're inclined to smile about, remember to raise a glass to George Washington and his soldiers. It's doesn't have to be rum.