Independence Day is supposed to be about tradition. Good ol' John Adams himself thought the day ought to be celebrated with "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."
At Military.com's SpouseBuzz, we are all about the traditional fireworks, parades, and adorable children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. But what can you do to give the usual stuff a little twist? What is something that can juice up your usual patriotism? (If you are celebrating solo while your service member is deployed, check out Rebekah Sanderlin's list here.)
1. Patriotic Playlist
We have the most unsingable national anthem in the entire world. Unless, of course, Madison Rising is singing it.
But why stop there? Put together a list from the great American songbook (My Country Tis of Thee; Oh Shenandoah) or just a lot of songs that make you feel all American (Born in the USA, Sweet Home Alabama, American Pie). Or maybe you could get all tricky and feature songs that mention the colors red, white or blue. Cue up your private copy of School House Rock and drive around with your windows open.
2. Road Trip to the National Mall
If you are stationed anywhere near Washington, DC, make this the year you spend July 4 at the National Mall. It's hot. It's crowded. It's dusty. It is unforgettable. There is something about 'rockets red glare' behind the Washington Memorial (with a plane taking off from Reagan Airport during the show) that is ultraAmerican.
Added bonus? Every time you hear someone talk about "a quarter of a million people" you can remind your kids that was how many people were on the mall during the fireworks.
3. Be on the plane during the fireworks
If you are headed out of town anyway, why not book your flight to take off at about 9:30 from DCA. Sit on the right side of the plane and witness the fireworks (and the crowd) from above.
Note to self: Find out which other cities I could fly out of during fireworks. Unless that is dangerous. Then don't do it.
4. Do a red, white and blue potluck
OK, OK so potlucks and barbecues are typical July 4th fare. But I am thinking that it is no coincidence that strawberries and blueberries come into season just in time for the Fourth of July.
Put a twist on the traditional military potluck by requesting that everyone bring only red, white or blue food. You know you want to indulge in all those crafty things on Pinterest! I personally am dying to wrap Twizzlers in blue starred ribbon. But that is just 'cuz I have a thing for Twizzlers. Hopefully someone else will bring red meat.
5. Mount a production
Tell your kids it is a tradition to give a show for July 4 (reference John Adams if they don't believe you). Tell 'em they gotta sing patriotic songs. Recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Dress up as historical figures. Write a play about Betsy Ross or Sacagawea or Rosa Parks. This activity can keep cousins and/or neighborhood children occupied for the entire day -- especially if you have at least one bossy little girl in the group.
6. Go for the Jell-o firecracker shots
Growing up, Jell-o was a true friend in summer. Now I find that they have discovered an even better use for Jell-o on July 4th. Firecracker shots. So pretty. And if you are making them only for adults you can use the spiked cherry recipe. Or skip the Jell-o and just go with the cherries. Find the official recipe here.
7. Indoor/Outdoor movie fest
The reason brick front colonials were invented was so that everyone has a great big blank vinyl wall to show a movie outside. Show a couple contenders for Most American Movie of All Time on the Fourth. My dad likes the musical 1776 (which I think is a real snoozer) and I am a total fan of The Music Man (which he thinks is an excuse for me to say the word, "Shipoopi.")
Or would you dog the musicals and go for a war movie? A western? A courtroom drama? Fictitious presidents?
8. Secret Uncle Sam
Secret Santa is for the birds. Secret Uncle Sam is a real surprise. Take a roll of red white and blue ribbon to tie a few carnations to hang on doorknobs in the neighborhood. Red, white and blue helium balloons are great for this game, too.
9. Play an American game, don't just watch one
Get out there and play one of the many games invented in America like dodgeball, basketball, baseball, or volleyball. Or stay inside and celebrate American games like The Game of Life, Monopoly, Connect Four, World of Warcraft, and my favorite, Scrabble.
10. Tag your heroes.
One of our favorite writers, Rebekah Sanderlin, reminded me that we have plenty of people to thank for our freedom. "Ever since my husband told me about his firebase being rocketed, hearing 'and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air' while watching fireworks makes me cry -- especially years when he's been deployed on July 4. Can't get more American-feeling than that."
Thanks to all our service members past and present who make our freedom possible. And thanks especially to those deployed right now and their families for all they do for all of us.