Independence Day—or the Glorious Fourth, if you like—is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. There is no artifice to the Glorious Fourth, no need to comply with societal pressures to consume 10 percent of GDP or pretend to enjoy the company of layabout relatives.
No one stresses over the Fourth of July. Christmas is months' worth of planning and shopping and news about the state of the economy or religion or the secular state viewed through the prism of a holiday. This is not a concern come Independence Day.
Typical planning session, on or about July 2:
American 1: “Hey, the Fourth is coming up. Want to come over and grill?”
American 2: “Sure. I’ll bring the beers.”
End of planning session. And the event will go off without a hitch.
The Fourth doesn’t carry the forced solemnity of Veterans Day or the uncomfortable vexillophilia of Flag Day. There’s never any concern over how to best celebrate; we all instinctually know. Relaxing, after all, comes naturally.
Perhaps this national relaxation is predicated on the Independence Day’s fortuitous calendar placement; if our illustrious forefathers had, instead of sweltering through a Philly summer, signed the Declaration of Independence in the midst of a Boston snowstorm, we’d probably be subjected to an endless run-up leading to a deflating experience. The Fourth, in short, would have become New Year’s Eve.
We’re a lucky nation.
So we owe the Founding Fathers for more than just, you know, writing the founding document of modern democracy. We owe them our summers. Although tough luck to John Adams on guessing the wrong date Americans would celebrate; he assumed we’d be lighting off our “Illuminations” on the anniversary of the day the Continental Congress actually voted to declare independence, the second of July. Guess that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
That’s another great thing about my favorite holiday: a slew of Jeopardy!-esque facts clever enough to repeat while you bother the guy manning the grill but not quite so annoying he feels the need to skewer you with a beef kabob.
Me: “Did you know John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July, within hours of each other?”
Guy on Grill: “Huh.”
Me: “And the Continental Congress probably didn’t even sign the Declaration of Independence until at least a month after the Fourth, when a clean copy was produced?”
Guy on Grill: “Why don’t you go get me a beer?”
Are you worried rain will spoil your Fourth of July celebrations? No! In case of inclement weather, our great nation has seen fit to televise Nathan’s 97th Annual July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Stay dry while tuning in and cheering on the Great American Hope, reigning champ and appropriately named Joey Chestnut. Heck, in true American fashion, you can even bet on it.
The Fourth is summertime and watermelon, fireworks and floating languidly, beer in hand. Wiffleball on the beach and barbeques. Cooking doesn’t take eight hours (unless it does), and the clean-up is easy. Although I’ll countenance “best holiday” arguments for St. Patrick’s Day (although not American enough) or maybe even Halloween (simultaneously too kiddy and too adult), no other holiday hits Independence Day’s sweet spot of effortless enjoyment and legitimate emotional underpinnings. See me on the Fourth, and I’ll be a happy American, probably singing Lee Greenwood. Feel free to join in. Or not. It’s the Glorious Fourth, and we're all free.
Plus, I really like bunting.