This week, we take a look at that most American of holidays, the Fourth of July.
Ah, the 4th of July, one of the few holidays that Britain has no counterpart for. (Interjection from Toni - "see below for the UK equivalent".) Thanksgiving is another one, so is Columbus Day, but who care about that one? The 4th, however, was a major event for me back in the States, and sorely missed over here.
There is nothing like sitting on 15th green of the local golf course with 437 of your closest friends, stuffed with hotdogs and potato salad and feeling the glow of a soon-to-be-major sunburn, and watching the fireworks light up the sky across the Hudson river. Or, if you choose to brave the crowds of downtown Albany, you can watch the show exploding and booming directly over your head while “Proud to be an American” blares over the loud speakers, and there is nothing like that, either.
Of course, in Britain there is, quite literally, nothing like that.
I actually have the 4th of July off this year. It’s just a coincidence and it won’t make any difference; even though I won’t be in the office, there still will not be any parades, barbecues or fireworks. They day will pass as by as all the others, obscured by normalcy.
The only upside is that fireworks are legal here. In New York, they were illegal—even sparklers—too dangerous, you know. But I could, if I had a mind to, go into town and buy some fireworks to set off after the sun goes down, which might bring a little bit of the USA here to Horsham for me. I won’t naturally. It’s far too dangerous. But I might pick up a few sparklers.
The Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day, is HUGE in the USA, and I know I have seriously short-changed my (American) kids on this one. For a start we’re usually not even in the country, and since it’s not a big deal in England unless you move in American expat circles, (which we don’t), it usually goes unnoticed. As I write, we have no plans whatsoever for the upcoming 4th, which will see us in the north east of England. Perhaps a really good plate of fish and chips will make up for the omission.
A really good mother would take stars and stripes napkins and paper plates to England, and mark the occasion with a little American-style BBQ for friends and family, but when packing for three kids and myself, it’s usually not even on my radar till we’re half way across the Atlantic. Besides, no one in the UK gets the day off on the fourth, so there’s not usually a lot of enthusiasm for a mid-week party.
Even if we were in the States, the kids would still probably consider themselves short-changed. We have never lived in the burbs, where neighbors get together for street parades and pot luck BBQ’s, pop down to the community pool and generally fraternize. Lots of people mark the Fourth with a fireworks display in the evening, which this Brit always finds a little strange. I mean, I grew up with Bonfire Night, (November 5th) and since it gets dark around 4pm during British winters, I’m not used to having to keep small children up till after 9pm to see fireworks. By the time I decided they were old enough to stay up without extreme crankiness the following day, my kids were too old to really care about fireworks.
But Mike - I crack myself up at my little joke that July 4th is actually British Thanksgiving – the day we got rid of one of the peskier colonies!