The Fourth of July is celebrated with sparkle and spirit by families in our great nation, across the fruited plains and from sea to shining sea.
Get ready to bring out all of the red, white and blue traditions and prepare to spend the day making memories as a family and connecting the generations in a united commemoration of the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we all enjoy.
At the same time, take this opportunity to educate your children about the facts and privileges surrounding the holiday. Because school is out for the summer, there will be no formal instruction on the origin of the holiday, so it’s up to parents to do the teaching.
John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, saying that the day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade … bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Thank you, John, but those of us in the Southland will skip the “bonfires” this July 4. And we’ll be especially careful with the “illuminations” as well. But celebrate we will!
Teach children about the basis of our nation’s grand birthday party, and why Adams was so excited. With recent events in the world creating uncertainty on a daily basis, the democracy we hold dear gives us some measure of hope — not perfect, certainly, but this country’s founders had a brilliant idea. We need to preserve it.
With this star-spangled holiday just around the corner, here are a few new twists to add to your tried and true traditions. Taking the time to stop and appreciate the wonderful country in which we live seems especially important this year. Help your children understand more about their heritage and the basis of our American ideals with these, as well as your own ideas.
1. Fly your flag. Talk with your children about the rules of respect regarding the American flag. Start the day with a family salute.
2. To make the day more fun, help your children find red, white and blue clothing to wear.
3. Find children’s books that give the basic historical happenings leading up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson.
4. Talk about the freedoms your family enjoys because of Independence Day. These are indeed reasons to celebrate.
5. Sing some patriotic songs: “America the Beautiful,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Does anyone in the family play the kazoo or have a drum? Have your own family parade.
6. Share special July 4 memories from your own childhood. Mine is sitting with my family on the roof of our house watching the distant fireworks on the San Diego beaches.
7. Since July often sizzles, find some water for the family to cool off in. If it’s a backyard pool, buy new pool toys and play together. If it’s the Pacific Ocean, research family beaches and have a strategy for easy parking.
8. Pack a picnic and head into nature, either hiking on a local trail, or settling into a shady park. Lacy Park in San Marino is known for its celebratory atmosphere and parade, but get there early with your red-checked tablecloth to claim a spot.
9. Or have a traditional barbecue with hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob and watermelon. Let the children decorate with patriotic colors and little flags.
10. Make homemade ice cream. A hand-crank ice cream maker will force the family to work together, resulting in shared pride and satisfying tastes.
11. Involve the children in making a flag cake. Spread a rectangular cake with white frosting or whipped cream, and decorate with strawberry stripes and blueberry stars. Read a story about Betsy Ross’ first flag creation with 13 stars for the original colonies.
12. No July 4 is complete without a spectacular fireworks display. If you love crowds, go to the Rose Bowl, or find a high spot in the surrounding area, throw down a blanket, and ooh and aah from a distance.
13. Before heading for bed, sing “Happy Birthday, America, Happy Birthday to You!”
“God bless America, land that we love!”