Happy 4th of July everyone! Today is the day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and honor everything America. So in the spirit of patriotism, here are 10 ways to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day with family and friends.
1) Read the Declaration of Independence
I don’t know about you, but so far I haven’t actually sat down to read through one of our country’s most important documents. I learned about it in school, and I can recite the first phrase, but sadly that’s where it ends. This is my goal for this year. You can find the full transcript from the National Archives or download an app for your tablet/phone (I suggest a free app like Declaration for iPad or the Constitution Reference Suite containing a collection of founding documents and speeches for $0.99).
2) Learn about our Independence Day
Yes, we all know the signing of the Declaration kicked off the American Revolution. But do you know about the rest of the history and traditions that surround the 4th of July? Check out these articles from the History Channel and TED to start educating yourself.
3) Fly the flag
If you don’t already have a flag posted outside your home, today is a perfect day to start. Flags are available from Walmart or other local stores. Be sure to read up on proper flag etiquette before you set it up, and remember to shine a light if you’re flying it at night.
4) Host a themed BBQ
Okay, so this isn’t really a novel idea, but it’s still fun. Gather your family and friends to celebrate with a grill and some patriotic-themed treats. Betty Crocker has a great list of appetizing suggestions, but a quick (i.e. endless) search through Pinterest will flood your head with an unlimited supply of red, white, and blue dishes and decorations. I’ll be making s’mores dip, dipped pretzels, and firecracker bark this year.
5) Learn about the origins of the American flag
We all love to don our red, white, and blue, but do you know why those colors were chosen? Read up on the history of the American flag from PBS, the USA Flag Site, and USA.gov.
6) Thank a veteran or serviceman
Sometimes it’s too easy to focus on the rights and privileges we have now and forget how we got them. Take a moment today and reach out to a member of our Armed Forces, past or present. They’ll appreciate your support. Also, keep in mind that some combat veterans in your area may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), so look out for signs like these and please be respectful with your use of fireworks.
7) Tour a historic site or explore a virtual museum
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the original 13 states, chances are you’re within range of some historic foundations of early America. Tour a state capitol, Independence Hall, the Smithsonian museums, the D.C. monuments, or any of the American Revolution battle sites. If you can’t make it to a museum in person, check out virtual tours of the American History Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Memorial Hall, or create your own. You can also use Google Earth to explore sites all around the country in 360 panoramas.
8) Watch a movie about the American Revolution
I grew up watching the musical 1776 with my dad every July 4th (seriously, who doesn’t love a dancing Ben Franklin). However, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t break into song, check out this list of movies that take place during the American Revolution. Based on ones I’ve seen, I suggest The Patriot, but I’m looking forward to seeing April Morning and Drums Along the Mohawk eventually. For kids, I’d actually suggest the America Rock! videos (from the Schoolhouse Rock! series). Warning: the songs will be stuck in your heads for years. Plus, there’s always Independence Day.
9) Reflect on what you’re grateful for
Regardless of how you feel about day-to-day politics, when you think of the freedoms we have in the country, we are very fortunate. We often take such liberties for granted and only focus on what divides us. Just imagine how much worse it could be, as compared to several other countries or even compared to our own a few hundred years ago. Remember to reflect on what we all have to be thankful for.
10) Watch fireworks
It wouldn’t be the 4th of July without fireworks blasting through the sky. Check out your local paper to find shows near you, or drive to one of these displays listed at the top 20 fireworks shows in the country. Don’t want to deal with the crowds? Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular airs on NBC at 8pm (EST/PST) and A Capitol Fourth airs on PBS at the same time.
I hope you and your family have a very happy 4th of July!