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Though I'm originally from Germany (and hold citizenship there) I do consider myself an American.  Which is just as well because I have no idea what the equivalent of Independence Day is in Germany.

When I lived with my nuclear family we did the traditional fireworks and barbeque.  I was really excited when I got to start setting off fireworks of my own.  The first ones I got to light were in Germany when we were on base for a celebration.  My dad (Tony) let me hold the punk (incense stick looking thing used to light things) and light up an artillery shell.  It was really exciting.  As I grew up it was about blowing things up.  By the time we moved to Kansas I would start gathering together old toys I didn't play with anymore and go out with my friends and our firecrackers to try and blow them apart.  Usually it was Army men or something like that, a big favorite was kids' meal toys.  The toughest one was a Lion King character.  We ended up jokingly setting him up on a brick with a sparkler which we lit and then left to go swimming.  We came back and he was melted.  I'm not particularly proud of having done those destructive things, but they are what characterized my 4th of July holidays.  The food, barbeque stuff was just like most other barbeques, my parents cooked up hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, and had a good time with their alcohol while us kids drank way too many sodas and blew things up.  Once I was in my teens and we had moved to Tennessee my dad (Troy) showed me how to fire bottle rockets at each other.  That was more than a little dumb I'll admit.

Nowadays I'm perfectly happy enjoying the day off without fireworks and alcohol.  Today for example we stayed at home and lounged for pretty much the whole day.  CD (mother-in-law) has been out house sitting since this morning so it was just me and Byron and Sam (wife).  It was very relaxed.  We watched a couple movies and had some Frito Chili Pie style munchies with turkey dogs.  Byron was the only one who drank and it wasn't that much.  It's nice to have a more relaxing version.  Normally we would do something a little more (depending on whether it fell on a weekend or not) to combine it sort of with CD's birthday since it's so close to the Fourth.  A visit to the zoo or aquarium, maybe even a little trip to Bosque del Apache.  Fireworks-wise we obey the city limit of under 10 feet.  As I've grown a bit older (not a lot mind you) I've come to enjoy the fountains more than the booms, and it helps that our dogs are afraid of the louder noises anyway.  This year we didn't light any off because of a particularly dry dry season.  With all the fires in the state it didn't seem worth trying our luck, or spending the money.  Sam and I watered down our yard the last three nights to make sure that our plants and ground were well saturated, we didn't burn down.

Someone else who answered this post had posed the question about whether most Americans even know why we light off fireworks on Independence Day.  I don't think they do.  The reason is because it's to serve as a reminder of the war fought to ensure our freedom.  The fireworks represent gunfire, bombs, and artillery.  It's even in our National Anthem (Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that would become the Anthem while he was present during a battle for the Revolution.  "The bombs bursting in air," were literal.).  As time removes us from the event I think it gets easier to forget the reasons behind the traditions.  Another thing that came up in response to this question was the leaning attitude of the question itself, being posed on the 4th of July (instead of say, the 1st, which was Canada Day) and asking about "Independence Day," which is not what all countries call their holidays celebrating similar circumstances.  I suppose if you want to get picky it's alright to point out the flaws with the wording, but I don't see the point in making a big fuss about it.  If your country has a day celebrating national freedom, I would love to read about it, instead of reading your complaints.  

Having said all that stuff, Happy Independence Day to all those Americans out there, and happy freedom for those others who are lucky enough to enjoy it.  The worst thing we could do as citizens of a free nation, whatever the name, is take it for granted.

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December 2012

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