PUBLISHED: 12:13 05 July 2018
July 4 is America's Independence Day - here are ways to celebrate our Special Relationship
July 4 – Independence Day in America... a day of celebration over the pond and, over here in the UK, perhaps a day for slight embarrassment, regret, shame – any, none or all of the above.
There were 13 states on the Atlantic coast of North American that were once British Colonies – Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. In 1775, fighting broke out between the Colonies and British troops in the conflict we know as the American War of Independence. The colonies felt that the British Parliament and its King, George III, were making laws that took away too many of their freedoms.
And so, on July 4 1776, the 13 states declared their independence and formed the United States. George Washington became the first President. Ever since, this day has been a holiday in America. Yes, Independence Day marks the birth of a nation and is, essentially, a celebration of the American people’s victory over the British but then, we limeys have had to get used to expressions of untrammelled joy across the world by those who have gained independence from Great Britain. It’s fair to say we got over it.
Today, we rejoice with our American cousins with whom we share so many cultural roots... despite occasional fallings out.
American and Britain are, as someone (possibly George Bernard Shaw) once said, two nations divided by a common language. It didn’t take America long to vary some British terms to their own devices although their tendency to put a “z” (that’ll be zed or zee, depending on how you like your rappers) in words such as organize and plagiarize is actually more traditional than the “s” we use on this side of the Atlantic. The “ize” endings are known as Oxford spelling.
The first time I realised with an “s” that American was a language in the 1970s when I met a young man from Holland who was clutching a Dutch-American dictionary. I remember feeling a little peeved – after all, the English started it.
What could Americans in the UK do on Independence Day?
Why not have a tea party (albeit not as dramatic as the one in Boston in 1773)? It would be a poignant tribute to the Sons of Liberty in the Massachusetts’ city, whose actions were prompted by the British East India Company being able to undercut the local tea merchants. Maybe a peaceful American invasion of British tearooms – with the strong dollar they can have as many scones as they like.
What could Britons do in America on Independence Day? We couldn’t beat them, so best join them.
There are a number of East Anglian “twins” to head for in the USA - three Norwichs, four Colchesters, and an Ipswich. Massachusetts has Norfolk and Essex counties plus there’s a Suffolk County in New York State (wherein, horror of horrors, lies Amityville) and another Essex county in New Jersey.
Massachusetts, where the founding fathers made their home, also has a Harwich, Cambridge, Framingham (almost Framlingham), Lynn, Haverhill, Attleboro, Dedham, Acton, Boxford, Braintree, Holbrook and many more. In any of these places, you could pay tribute to American Independence by eating a slice of apple pie or cheesecake (don’t eat the chocolate) and be sure to speak American – pants for trousers, trunk for car boot, sidewalk for footpath. And, if you have the opportunity to write a missive, be sure to encapsulate the joy of theater, color and similar transatlantic spellings.
In Washington DC, Independence Day is marked, amongst other things,with a parade; a concert that includes a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with a grand finale of fireworks; and a celebration of international cultures at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Meanwhile, in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK, on July 4, the National Trust is celebrating America’s birthday at Washington Old Hall from where the Washington family (and the first president of the United States) took their surname. The venue will be holding its annual flag raising ceremony with presentations about liberty from local schools, and live music.
If you can’t make it to any of the organised, sorry, organized events, why not create your own with a tub of popcorn, bag of chips (crisps,) and an evening of American classic movies.
“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. (Harry Truman)
“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” (Ronald Reagan)
“Laughter is America’s most important export.” (Walt Disney)
“America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity – the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.” (Robert Kennedy)
“I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we should all have to pay our fair share.” (Stephen King)
“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” (Mark Twain)
“Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honoured by posterity because he was the last to discover America.” (James Joyce)