Monday, July 2, 2007


The most important national holiday here in the United States is July 4th. It is celebrated in so many different ways: parades, religious services, visiting grave sites, picnics, fireworks, concerts both inland and beach areas, etc. The annual event pushes the tourists in places that jam the roads for miles and miles of autos, trucks, and motorcycles at times, in total chaos. The same is true to all the nice beaches and waterways for avid sun worshippers and sailors. Most popular cities/town to visit due to historical significance includes Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, DC, and Boston, to name a few.

In July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declared adoption of Declaration of Independence. A committee pioneered by Thomas Jefferson formally declared this historical event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This severed the ties between the colonies and Britain after the American Revolution started. Although the signing of the declaration was not completed until August 1776, July 4th has been accepted as the official date of US independence from Great Britain. That date became the official and legal holiday in 1941. It is celebrated in all states and territories of the United States. An interesting fact about this official holiday: Guam, Marianas Island (a US territory) is always the first to celebrate this national holiday. Because of its proximity to the international dateline, about 10 to 12 hours ahead of the Eastern time, hence the motto: “Where America's day begins”. That was a popular part of the Guam's vehicle license plate in the 70s.

Our town in Ocean County is no exception when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July. We have parades throughout the county, from the weekend before the 4th, all the way through the actual holiday. State and city parks are usually packed with people of all ages, just as much as the beaches of Jersey shore. Most family gatherings are centered at the backyard close to their swimming pool or town parks. And what is July 4th celebration without the barbecue grill lighted up to burn or cook the traditional American menu during this holiday? Americans love to eat! Hot dogs, hamburgers, spareribs, baked beans, corn on the cob, potato salad, and of course the good old lemonade (or beer) with apple pie, or watermelon to finish off the picnic. For others that don’t want to bother with the traditional barbecue, food chains and restaurants inside or out of shopping malls and strips are open. These places are particularly crowded when the temperature soars over 85 degrees F. It’s cooler inside the mall but less crowded than the beach, is a common expression among the more matured citizens. Same rationale is used to see new released blockbuster movies. For the final event, fireworks of various degrees of noises, colors and light intensities can be heard for miles as soon as the darkness sets in.

More readings...

A couple of years back, Annie and I took a short trip to a neighbor state of Delaware just to watch the July 4th celebration. Please join us to reminisce that one Fourth of July celebration in Dover, Delaware.
Photos - Happy (231st) Fourth of July, America!


ErnestoDR said...

Ed, I came across this article and thought I should share it with you. God bless the Philippines!

"America the Beautiful"

This Fourth of July, crown your good
with brotherhood.

When Katharine Lee Bates traveled across the United States, she wrote more than postcards home. Before the trip was over, the Massachusetts educator had composed most of a poem that would become a secular hymn and beloved patriotic song: "America the Beautiful."

Purple Mountain Majesties

Bates, a professor at Wellesley College, journeyed to Colorado in 1893 to teach. She had been jotting down impressions about the landscape since she left Boston. But her poem really came together after ascending Pike's Peak in a wagon emblazoned "Pike's Peak or Bust."

The experience at the top of the 14,110-foot mountain literally knocked her friends off their feet. Bates later said she had one "brief ecstatic glimpse" of the panorama before two other teachers fainted from the change in altitude and guides rushed the whole party down the mountain.

That evening, she wrote the opening lines of the song we know today. She composed more verses that incorporated her impressions from earlier in the trip. But her poem isn't just about scenery. Bates told friends that other "great" nations had failed chiefly because they weren't "good." Unless America crowned its greatness with goodness--with brotherhood--its magnificence as a land would be for naught.

Heartening Hymn

Upon her return home, Bates looked over the verses she wrote on her trip and pronounced them "disheartening." Yet when she pulled them out again after two years, she made some revisions and sent the poem to a magazine called The Congregationalist, where it was published in the July 4 issue of 1895. "The hymn attracted an unexpected amount of attention," Bates would write years later. She revised the poem several times, and it grew more popular as time passed.

The meter of the verse let it be sung to several well-known melodies of the day. Most often, people used a tune called "Materna," written by Samuel Augustus Ward in 1882 for a hymn called "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem." In 1926, the National Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to put "America the Beautiful" to original music, but none of the hundreds of entries was deemed as good as Ward's tune.

National Anthem?

That same year, the song's supporters made a push to have "America the Beautiful" declared the country's national anthem. In 1931, Congress chose "The Star-Spangled Banner" instead. Still, the song's popularity remains strong. It's been recorded hundreds of times, by everyone from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Boxcar Willie. Elvis even used to belt it out as the finale of his Las Vegas show in the early 1970s.

Bates herself, an early advocate for the education of women, led a remarkably emancipated life for a woman of her time. She headed the English department as Wellesley, traveled through Europe and the Middle East, and studied at Oxford in England. But her most popular and enduring work is this poem that envisions a nation with ideals as great as its landscape.

--Colleen Kelly

Ed Benjamin said...

Hi Ernie:
Thanks for sharing this article. It's very informative.