If you have newly migrated to the US for work or study you are probably discovering many new things. Depending on where you come from it can take a while to blend in culturally. The 4th of July presents an excellent opportunity for new migrants to better understand the local culture. Here is what to expect and how to make the most of it.
In order to truly appreciate the significance of this day you need to know your history. The 4th of July is one of the most important dates in US annals. It is the day on which America declared independence from British rule in 1776. In other words, this is the day when America was born. The origin of this celebration makes it a uniquely patriotic event. However, this patriotic day has no xenophobic overtones. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite. The 4th of July commemorates not just national independence, but personal and individual freedom. It rejects all forms of oppression and subversion. Everyone is welcome to join in the Independence Day celebrations. This includes foreigners and outsiders. After all, this is the day when it was proclaimed that “all men are created equal”.
As in most other countries patriotism is a very public sentiment. America’s Independence Day is celebrated with large-scale public displays including parades, ceremonies, and speeches. In the evening many communities organize large scale fireworks spectacles. In many US states stores sell fireworks to the general public. It is one of the only times in the year when people are allowed to light fireworks at home. Because of this reason Independence Day has a special place in the hearts of American children.
This year, following COVID-19 issues and social distancing requirements, people will avoid gathering in numbers to watch public fireworks. As a result many cities and counties have cancelled fireworks shows. Consequently fireworks sales for home use are off the charts. Many families are going to light-up their own backyards. Needless to say fireworks are an important part of Independence Day celebrations. For weeks people have been cooped-up at home during the lockdown. Now they are compensating by spending extra on fireworks. It seems this year the 4th of July will be something special.
Independence Day is a unique holiday in that it falls in the summer. This gives Americans a chance to do the things they love. One can enjoy this day in ways that would be unthinkable during the other prominent holiday in the country, Christmas. The 4th of July is a distinctly outdoor event. Some states organize lavish parades which are famous countrywide. The day is meant to be celebrated with the extended family and friends. Fairs, picnics, barbecues, open air concerts, and outdoor ceremonies are the norm. One can see a profusion of decorations and banners in red, white, and blue. For an expat to get invited to one of these outdoor gatherings would be a superb opportunity. It is a chance like no other to really understand Americans. Forget how you observe Independence Day in your own country. The proper way to celebrate the 4th of July in the US is out in the sun, with a hot dog and a beer (popsicle if you’re a minor).
As a migrant worker your priorities and thoughts are understandably with your family. Chances are, you send money online regularly to your loved ones back home. Holidays can invoke a variety of feelings. Instead of feeling homesick, take this opportunity to learn more about your host country’s culture. Being an expat in the US on the 4th of July can be a great experience. Dress-up for the occasion and step out with your local pals. Munch on American snacks and goodies. Listen to patriotic songs and speeches. Cheer at the parade. Play or watch some sports. Enjoy fireworks in the evening, and soon your cultural integration will be complete.