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When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was a HUGE deal. We celebrated our nation’s Independence Day with a bang! Businesses were closed, family and friends gathered, fireworks lit up the sky, and dads everywhere donned their white New Balance sneakers and their best pair of “jorts” for a grilling extravaganza the likes of which this world hasn’t seen since.
Unfortunately, things seem to be different now. Do we even know where to catch fireworks anymore? Everyone’s working, everyone’s busy, and people sit at home binge watching Netflix in the A/C (not judging as hard since Stranger Things, season 3, DOES come out on the 4th) instead of being outside with the important people in their lives soaking up the summer.
Not in my family. Luckily I come from and also married into a family that takes celebrating America seriously. And we party. We party real hard. Here are my 10 favorite things about one of my favorite holidays:
I may sound like a little kid, but there is nothing more magical than watching fireworks with your family on the 4th of July. They literally light up my soul and bring tears to my eyes. Even watching the little ones run around with sparklers makes my heart happy.
Lighting those big shells off in the back yard, shooting bottle rockets and Roman candles at each other, nearly burning down a shed AND a tree, these are some of my favorite memories.
*Disclaimer: I do not condone firework related violence or arson*
Midland is the only place in Beaver County to catch fireworks on the actual 4th this year. But if you want to drive a bit you can always head to Zelienople, Mars, East Palestine, the Butler Fair, or Pittsburgh.
2. All America, all the time:
American flag shorts, Regan & Bush ’84 tank tops, red bandanas, you name it. People treat the 4th of July like Halloween, and I love every second of it. If you aren’t dressed like you singlehandedly won the Revolutionary War and are on your way to a Nascar race, what are you even doing?
3. The food
Summertime picnic food is my absolute favorite. The griller of the family fires up an obscene amount of hot dogs and hamburgers, saying “They’re not burnt, that’s just a little char! Just peel the black stuff off and quit your whining.” All the while calling everyone “champ” or “chief”.
Grandma makes her famous potato salad, mom puts bacon in her baked beans, and we eat watermelon like it’s the only day of the year we’re allowed to have it. Kids run wild with those freeze-pops that cut the sides of your mouth open like the Joker. It’s such a special time.
In my husband’s family, this has become a 4th of July tradition that provides the most fun while also causing the most fights. Partners are chosen like an old school gym class where feelings are not taken into account and the worst kid WILL be picked last. Speaking of kids, they’re not allowed to play. It’s adults only when the serious games start.
5. Alcohol… all of the kinds
Is there anything better than a cold Summer Shandy at a holiday picnic? The 4th of July is a perfect excuse to get star spangled hammered. You’re not going out to the bar at night, you’re day drinking, and you need to have a completely different mindset if you’re going to make it til the fireworks start.
From ice cold beer out of your dad’s cooler from the 80’s, to the bottles of wine your aunt sneakily puts down, to red, white and blue jell-o shots, it’s bound to be a great time for everyone!
6. Lightning bugs
As an adult, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m still obsessed with and fascinated by lightning bugs. My son and I may or may not have been out several times playing with them already.
I love the way they light up your yard at night. I love that they actually let you catch them and chill on your hand while they blink a few times like they’re happy to see you. They are just the best little guys ever.
7. Family and friends
Sure, you see your whole family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the summer is always so busy with sports and vacations that it’s hard to see anyone at all. Except on the 4th. This was always the day that everyone got together no matter what, and we still do!
Time goes way too fast and life is way too short. Spend this special day with your family and friends. These are the moments that your kids will cherish as they grow up.
8. Water activities
The 4th of July and getting soaked go hand-in-hand, at least in my opinion, and there’s really no wrong way to go about it!
If you’re lucky you have access to a pool, but if you don’t you get creative like we always did growing up! Hooking the sprinkler up to the hose, putting a slip-n-slide down in the grass, or even filling up some water balloons and squirt guns, this is the perfect day to cool yourself (and others) off!
I’ll concede that since we live in Western Pennsylvania the likelihood of this isn’t actually great, but is there anything better than a summer day in July?! Blue skies, sunshine (or sunburn in my case) and the smell of freshly cut grass just screams summer to me.
Something about this holiday just makes me think of baseball. Maybe it’s that scene from the Sandlot where they’re celebrating the 4th. Maybe because we always played it with my dad growing up. I’m really not sure.
Regardless, whether it’s watching it at the park or playing it in the backyard, there WILL be some kind of baseball taking place with our family this year.
What are some of your favorite traditions or memories from the holiday? Share them with us and tag us in your photos. Make the 4th of July great again!