By: Susan Ragsdale
This Independence Day, families across the U.S. will be on holiday and celebrating with cook-outs, baseball games, waving of flags, family reunions, all types of outdoor fun, and fireworks. To help get your family fired up to celebrate the day with a little more “oomph,” I thought a mock interview with historical figure Betsy Ross might shed some light on why the 4th is such a memorable moment in our family history as a country.
Betsy is widely credited with making the very first American flag. She is going to fill us in on what every family needs to know about this important day in American History.
Susan: Besty, what’s the story behind the 4th of July?
Betsy: In 1776, we were in what is known as the American Revolution. On July 2nd of that year, we declared independence from Great Britain. It was a huge decision! We considered ourselves as independent states, no longer part of the British Empire, officially on that date.
To help explain the decision, our Congress scripted a Declaration of Independence. It covered the reasons for pulling out from the British Empire as well as asserting what we believed to be certain natural and legal rights that we all held. I think today you call them “human rights.” The Declaration was signed on July 4, 1776, and it is the primary document in the founding of our country.
Susan: Can you relate to us a “human” moment during all this excitement?
Betsy: (laughs) Well, I remember John Adams told his wife Abigail that July 2nd would become the most memorable date in history, since that was the day that independence from Britain was declared. He missed it by two days!
Susan: That’s really funny! How did everyone celebrate the 4th? How did families remember this history-making moment during the next several years?
Betsy: Well, to continue to quote John, he thought it should be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by acts of devotion to God. And, he thought it should be "observed by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and fireworks, from here on out." So, he may have missed the date, but he was pretty close on predicting how the event would be remembered from year to year.
Susan: He was almost right on target, wasn’t he? Two more questions: First, is there anything else we need to know about what was going on during that time? And second, what would you suggest that families do today to commemorate the 4th?
Betsy: Glad you asked! As far as honoring our history, why not include a little quiz in your family’s celebration to remember what went on during those exciting times? That’s a great way to honor our heritage and to have fun together. Perhaps families might do a game show – Family Feud style or whatnot. Here’s a link to a fun quiz that you can do on-line together or print off to use with others.
I would recommend that you follow John’s ideas for celebrating the 4th and think about how you can make the time together meaningful. Here are some tips to help guide you!
Actively honor the day. Attend a parade; talk to a veteran; do flag crafts where you draw pictures of the flag and write freedoms you have that you are grateful for in the stripes; re-read the Declaration and talk about how it served as a code then create your own family code; visit those who don’t have the day off (policemen, firemen, etc.) and take them treats – lunch, brownies or healthy snacks and thank them for their service; or, hang the flag.[Downlad: Activity - Create Your Own Family Code!]
Pictured above: An example of a "Freedoms List" activity
Spend time together as a family. Grilling, picnics, making homemade ice cream (one family I know has a homemade ice cream competition), going to a movie or playing in a community baseball game – spend time together and remember to be grateful for the freedom you have to be together and that you are free to do as you like.
Play games. Use a red, white and blue theme for games. Consider a game of tug-of-war with red, white and blue bandanas marking the middle. Use the game’s title to talk about the “tug” the colonists must have felt in their desire to be free and independent and then relate that to today (what freedoms are we still working on?). Create your own ring toss game with the colors. Have a relay race where participants run to a designated spot, tie on red bandanas, put on blue gloves and a white hat, run back, disrobe and the next person puts things on, runs, disrobes, runs back and so forth until one team wins.
Light up the skies! Put on your own fireworks display or watch someone else’s. Bang pans, make noise or have a bonfire.
Tell Us:-->What are some of your favorite Independence Day traditions?______________________________________________________________________
1. "Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, ‘Had a Declaration…’". Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
2. Image via Todd Morris on Flick'r.