10 Reasons Why Independence Day is My Favorite Holiday
Even before I moved to the USA in early 2002, Independence Day was already becoming a favorite of mine. Despite the fact that I was never here on the 4th of July before 2002, I still loved this holiday. It started as a small get together at my parents house in Glasgow, Scotland to try and make my girlfriend (soon to be wife) not quite so homesick. We tried our best to make it like it would have been for her back home. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and my parents told us some of their stories from visits to various parts of the USA. A few years later and the event had grown. There was no mistaking that an American lived on our street as we flew the Stars ‘n’ Stripes for the month of July. Our 4th of July party was almost never on the 4th of course as nobody in the UK gets that day off work. It was moved to the nearest weekend and we erected a canopy to cover us from the likelihood of rain. So now after 12 years here, my experience of the 4th has changed a lot, but the fact remains that this is still my favorite holiday and here’s why:
This is one thing we could never replicate in the UK. Summertime in Scotland means that the sun never really sets and so fireworks are kept for later in the year. Who doesn’t like fireworks? From the slow build up at the start to the thunderous finale, it’s a time honored tradition that has us all gazing skywards and for those inclined checking out those “bulb’ exposures. Of course the pets aren’t crazy about them and there are always countless tragedies every year, but with proper planning an execution a well-conceived fireworks display always ends the day with “oohs” and “aahs”.
- Burgers on the Grill
Nothing says Americana like burgers and dogs. A staple on the grill for many households, the simple burger – like it or not – has become the culinary icon of the United States worldwide. I was in a restaurant recently that proudly boasted 24 varieties of burger! From cheeses to avocado to onion rings to chili – it seems there is no combo that can be wedged between a bun and a patty that has not been tried. The CI Atlanta crew introduced my new personal favorite for a special occasion to me. Yes, the infamous Luther Burger. This is the quintessential heart-stopping burger stuffed with countless calories of incredible indulgence using a glazed donut for the bun! In this example pictured from New Year 2014 I added the pièce de résistance a fried egg. Yum!
- “Old Glory”
Americans love their flag! I have never been in any country where there is such a presence for the nations flag. Capt. William Driver, who is credited with coining the name “Old Glory”, loved his flag so much he had it sewn into his comforter to avoid being discovered by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In fact at his death he said “I love this flag like a mother loves a child”. As a parent all I can say is that sure is a lotta love! Even the national Anthem is about the flag. Over the past 3 or 4 weeks I have been counting the numbers of flags that I see on my short 15-minute drive to work. I am up to 19. And this does not include all the cars that I pass with some kind of bumper sticker stars ‘n’ stripes. So whatever reason you chose to erect the 30ft flag pole in your front lawn, the Star ‘n’ Stripes makes #8 on my list because for me it is the symbol of the democracy that we enjoy and also it really makes such a fine piece of art – red white and blue looks at great everywhere. Here is the flag painting my 9yr old son Euan did last week.
- Ice Cream
What flavor of ice cream is not available? Vermont’s own Ben & Jerry’s is a popular choice in our house. My newest discovery? Salted Caramel Core. It’s all about the core. Wow!Summer weather and ice cream. Enough said.
- The Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. This really needs nothing more added. For the past 238 years this young country has been striving to live up to these fine words. The 4th of July marks the celebration of these founding principles set forth in Philadelphia by the 13 new United States. This is what the day is really all about.
I know that the traditional bookends of summer are Memorial Day and Labor Day, but here in New England, consistent summer weather typically starts much later than Memorial Day. By Independence Day, swimming pools that closed down in the previous Fall are now open, the lawn needs to mowed just a little higher to stop burning up and Summer is in generally in full swing. With the humidity not being present every day yet, warm sunshine is the norm, making it a pretty decent bet that the grill is fired up most evenings. In Scotland, as Christina and I hosted our 4th of July party for friends and neighbors, we were complete with the afore mentioned burgers, dogs and ice cream, but we could rarely guarantee great weather. In fact, one of my favorite lines was when my wife would wake up in the morning, throw back the curtains and pronounce “It’s a good day today!……….. Light grey!”
- American Beers
Yes. Really. To my Scottish friends who are reading this, I am serious. American beer is not all mass-produced tasteless swill. Prior to the Prohibition years, the US was full of small regional brewers who brought great character to beers from their homelands. Wheat beers, stouts, lagers, pale ales were everywhere. After Prohibition the American beer industry was decimated and by the 1970’s there were still many laws in place locally that meant that virtually no small independent brewers were able to start or stay in business. Enter the new revolution! And what better way to celebrate the uprising of a new country than with a glass from the latest American Revolution! The rebirth of American beer is moving at an astonishing pace and there are now over 2500 independent “craft” brewers producing beers that will compare favorably with even the best brewing countries. Personally I love those “big” Belgian styles. Ommegang, Allagash, Brooklyn are among my favorites, but I also love hoppy beers and stouts. Dogfishhead, Green Flash, Rogue, Long Trail for the former, Left Hand, Founders, North Coast & Avery for the latter. Whatever your choice, cheers!
- Becoming a US Citizen
This year Independence Day also marked something new. After being a legal alien on a green card for 12 years, I decided that it was time to show a commitment to my new home and country. Earlier this year I started the process of applying to be a citizen of the United States. About a month ago, after filing the last paperwork and completing the civics test, I was informed that my Oath Ceremony was to be held on July 4th in Portsmouth, NH. Along with 100 other people and in front of my family, I followed the pathway of many Scots immigrants before me and became a citizen of this great country. It was a very cool twist to the usual McRitchie 4th of July celebrations and in subsequent years I will recall this special event.
- Anniversary of my Dad’s death
So this one may come as slightly odd and maybe even a little morbid to some, but to me, it is actually not that way at all. My dad was an amazing influence on my life. He was as honest as the day is long and he was a true mentor to me. It was through his support that I stuck with photography and made it my career. We lost him barely a few weeks past his 70th birthday and these days that seems far too young. Andrew, my eldest son (24) has very fond and vivid memories of his grandfather, however Carleigh (11) only met him when she was a few months old and Euan (9) was not born until a month to the day after his passing. The 4th of July marks a day that we all remember. Even the younger two know that this is the day on which Grandpa died and it always stimulates questions about who he was and what he was like. My Dad loved America too. He first came here on a work exchange program with the BBC back in the 1970’s. And he was hooked. My Mum and Dad traveled back to the States many times. He loved the openness and diversity of the people. He was also touched by the amazing interest that local radio listeners in Rochester, IN paid to him as a visiting Scottish voice on their radio. Later when Christina and I brought up the idea of us moving to the US, he was a strong supporter despite the fact that he knew his ability to travel here was likely to be extremely limited due to his illness. I’ve missed him every day for the last 10 years and as I gaze up at the fireworks exploding in the air, we raise a toast to my Dad, my mentor and my best friend.
- Family and Friends
I think that at the end of the day no matter what holiday I was commenting on, this would end up being my #1. With all of the aforementioned components, the final part to making 4th of July my favorite holiday is the gathering of the clans. Whilst I miss my friends and family from “back home’ on this day, our Stateside family gets together to enjoy each others company, watch our children play together and appreciate the culinary delights from the kitchen and grill. Simply hanging out, playing yard games, listening to funny stories and the taking part in the occasional lively debate, the end of the day always seems to come too soon.
This was an interesting commentary for me to write. I have always thought of Independence Day as being my favorite holiday, but had never written it down to get a clear understanding of why and what makes this such a special day. As always, these kinds of Top 10 lists are written from a very personal standpoint and I may have overlooked your favorite activity or family tradition. We always welcome comments and opinions – so go ahead and let me know what I missed or what we should consider for our future 4th of July celebrations.Happy Birthday America!