We who love our country like to make a fuss about July 4, the anniversary of the day our Continental Congress signed the declaration of Independence, declaring America’s independence from the British monarchy. We celebrate with cookouts, concerts, trips to the beach, traffic jams, parades and of course, fireworks, lots of fireworks. As an amateur actor, I twice have had the honor of performing in productions of the musical show “1776,” which commemorates the signing of that solemn declaration and the struggles of those early congressmen to create our independent nation.
We label the holiday Independence Day, for good reason, because America’s independence is the point, yet many Americans insist on casting aside its proper name, preferring to call this holiday July 4th or Fourth of July. What are you doing for the Fourth? is a common conversation starter. Television bombards us with 4th of July sales, these days more commonly called “events.” References to the specific date July 4th are everywhere, but I see or hear few mentions of Independence Day. Why is that? Isn’t independence what this holiday is about?
If we are so enamored of observing a specific date more than its proper name, why don’t we change the way we identify all of our holidays to be consistent? Just imagine. Greeting cards would exclaim, “Merry December the 25th!” Workers would look forward to a long weekend at summer’s end. “Happy First Monday on September!” we would say to our friends. Two months later we will roast turkeys and surround our dinner tables with family members and give thanks for our blessings. “Happy fourth Thursday in November!” becomes our greeting to one another.
Nah. None of us wants that. These don’t make sense. They sound wrong. Christmas is Christmas, Labor Day is Labor Day. Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. Let’s not celebrate particular dates on the calendar. Let’s call them what they are and what they really mean to us.
Happy Independence Day.