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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Transatlantic‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹  ›EN‹   –  04.07.2012

Fourth of July - a day of traditions

Why is it that some countries seem to have a strong tradition of celebrating their national holiday (think France or the United States), while for others it’s just another day off? The secret, I believe, lies in the timing.

fireworksThink of the Fourth of July, and immediately your mind conjures up a host of fun things to do: there are the parades and fireworks, of course, but more importantly the holiday means picnics and BBQ, hot dogs and apple pie and, yes of course, beer and baseball. In short: it’s a celebration of summer, a day for family and friends to get together outdoors and have some fun in the sun. Nearly everybody loves those kinds of things, so what could possibly be wrong with that concept? So people celebrate.

Germany’s national holiday, on the other hand, is October 3rd. Other than it being an official day off work (with stores closed, too!), there are no general traditions connected with this day. No picnics or outings, no fireworks, no special foods involved (hm…perhaps there might be some official kind of parade somewhere in Berlin). Now, that might have something to do with Germany’s general reluctance to celebrate all things “national” (see former post), or it may simply have to do with the fact that October in central Europe just isn’t reliably a great time for outdoor celebrations.

Other European nations with more pronounced national holidays are France with their Bastille Day (July 14th), Switzerland (August 1st) and Norway (May 17th). Do we see a pattern here?

Perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw that sets the date national independence was won or a new state was formed. Should newly emerging countries hold their breath and, keeping future national holidays in mind, wait for a more opportune time?  - “Hold the fireworks, boys, we may want to stop and think about this for a minute…”

Of course, the Fourth of July didn’t start out as the grand fun day it is today. After signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 (the traditional, if not historically accurate date), the War of Independence went on for some years and people surely weren’t much in the mood for celebrations. Actually, it was only in 1941 that July 4th was declared a federal holiday.

So, enjoy the summer and get out there, pack a picnic, crank up the grill and don’t forget the watermelon!