Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What's in a name?

Why is today commonly referred to as "the Fourth of July" rather than "Independence Day"? Nobody wishes anybody a merry December 25th. A happy January 1st? Even the neo-pagan freaks will wish somebody a happy solstice.

Well meaning and patriotic folks wish people a happy Fourth reflexively, but we really ought to remember that we're celebrating Independence Day.

The Fourth of July is a made-up holiday where people worship their barbecue grills and blow things up for fun. Independence Day is the holiday where we remember that the American colonists valued free self government and individual rights above life itself, each signature on the Declaration of Independence an act of capital treason by the mere stroke of a pen.

So happy Independence Day.


Anonymous said...

A few counters: I would consider religious holidays, such as Christmas, a different animal from things like Labor Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. As for New Year's, you're neglecting the large population which refers to it simply as "the First" (as in, "Did you have a good First?").

More importantly, though, much of the identity of Independence Day stems from its rigid ties to the 4th of July. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Washington and Lincoln's Birthday, Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving, etc all suffer from that "observed" status, where it gets reassigned to the closest Monday (with Thanksgiving an obvious exception). So there's no actual date that resonates within you when you think about those holidays. Day off from work in the middle of the week be damned - this one, come hell or high water, will be celebrated on the Fourth of July from now until the unseen distant future.

And as a final thought, it's one thing to declare one's independence. It's quite another to actually achieve it. Personally, I think you could construct an argument that the treaty ending aggression between England and the incipient US was more significant than the actual declaration itself. I bet that those kids who legally emancipate themselves from their parents don't recognize the day they filed papers with the court. They celebrate the day the court rules in their favor.

But yeah, the founding fathers are following quickly in the footsteps of Jesus - soon they'll be shaking hands and talking about how their holiday used to be about more than glitzy extravagant displays.


Sockless Joe said...

Never heard the "happy first" thing. Interesting, though I guess the whole idea of New Year's Day is that it is the first of something.

Hey, I didn't pick July 4th as Independence Day, I just follow the calendar.