I want to do something more with the Fourth of July. When I was growing up, this was always a very fun holiday. We were often on vacation in my parents’ hometown, North Platte, Nebraska, which was a great place to celebrate the Fourth. We bought a lot of family-style fireworks – sparklers, snakes, poppers, wheels -- and shot them off in my grandparents’ backyard, plus North Platte had various town activities. July 4 is also my mother’s birthday, so that lent the day an extra air of festivity, and we ate a lot of cake and ice cream. It felt like a special day.
But in my life now, Fourth of July isn’t particularly special, because I haven’t tried cultivate traditions. Every year, we spend the weekend with my in-laws, which is fun. But we don’t have a particular meal we always serve, or an activity we always do. We don’t shoot off any fireworks (which may actually be illegal in New York, I’m not sure), and we don’t go see fireworks. My older daughter was scared of fireworks for a long time, plus both my children become raging terrors if they stay up much past their bedtimes.
Studies show that family traditions support children’s social development and strengthen family cohesiveness. They provide the connection and predictability that people crave. They help us mark the time and the seasons in a pleasant way. My Third Splendid Truth is The days are long, but the years are short , and I find that this kind of festivity helps to slow time, and at least to make time more memorable. It brings the family together in happy circumstances.
I want to think about traditions to build in to our holiday. Most years, we have a very Fourth of July dinner – corn, hamburgers/turkeyburgers, cake. But I want to declare a “traditional” meal, so that it feels both special and predictable. Maybe we add a berry salad of strawberries, blueberries and apple slices to be red-white-and-blue. Maybe we always bake cupcakes decorated with red, white, and blue sprinkles. Whatever.
This year, I bought some sparklers, so at least we’ll have something in the fireworks family. Sparklers are the easiest, safest, and most fun of fireworks, so why did I never do this before?
This is one of the most important things I’ve learned from my happiness project: I need to take responsibility for the kind of life I lead. If I wish Fourth of July were more festive, I need to figure out how to make it more festive. If I want sparklers, I need to buy them. As Kafka wrote, “You are the problem. No scholar to be found far and wide.”
How do you celebrate Fourth of July? Do you have any good home-based traditions to propose? I’d like to have a little more than sparklers and cupcakes to mark the day.
* Speaking of fireworks, I loved this little video of fireworks created from household objects.
* If you're looking for a book to read over the holiday weekend, please consider The Happiness Project (can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller). Order your copy. Read sample chapters. Watch the one-minute book video. Listen to a sample of the audiobook.