How can a country that is made of immigrants from all over the world have traditions? Each family in America is made of its own special blend of other countries, predominantly from Europe. Many Americans today will say something like, “My great- grandfather came to America from Germany, Hungary, Ireland, etc.” The cultural heritage within these families may influence what types of traditions an American family has. For example, my mother’s parents came to America from Hungary. While living in New York, her parents lived in a Hungarian community in the Buffalo area. Within their community, my grandparents spoke Hungarian amongst their friends, attended Hungarian church services, enrolled their children in traditional Hungarian dance classes, and shared traditional Hungarian dishes. Despite keeping many of their Hungarian practices, my grandparents also adopted American traditions like eating turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving Day. One American tradition they especially enjoyed and embraced was celebrating America’s Independence Day on the 4th of July. On that day, my family and I went to a relative’s house on Lake Erie and had a big party.
Each family in America is different, but many celebrate popular holidays in the same way. One holiday is our Independence Day, which Americans will usually refer to as “the 4th of July”. The 4th of July is a national holiday, and it is often celebrated amongst a combination of family members and friends.. Many American flags are flown proudly displaying the red, white, and blue colors symbolic of American freedom and pride. Families and friends often gather and grill hamburgers and hotdogs outdoors. Other popular side dishes are potato salad, macaroni salad, chips, soda, fruit, and cakes or cookies. Some groups of Americans throw large parties, while others prefer smaller parties. At the parties, there might be outdoor games to play like volleyball, badminton, or ladder ball. Songs like the Star Spangled Banner, Born in the U.S.A., and Stars and Stripes Forever are often heard. Some towns also have a parade. Marching bands play songs by John Philip Sousa, drums pound out rhythmic beats, antique cars are driven, fire trucks roll by and honk their horns, and candy is thrown at the feet of children waiting with excited faces on the sides of the street. Some towns and cities also provide a carnival with rides and food like cotton candy, candy apples, and popcorn to enjoy.
One of the things that makes the 4th of July so special in America is the fireworks. Many towns and cities will provide a free or really cheap firework show when it becomes dark at night. Most of the time, the fireworks are lit from a park, beach, or golf course. Families and friends gather together in the park and sit on blankets or in lawn chairs. In some cases, the fireworks are lit from a large raft that floats on a lake. Most of the time, in the moments leading up to the beginning of the firework show, people talk and laugh with one another. But, when the show begins, everyone cheers and then they become quiet, except for the occasional “Oooh” or “Ahhh”. A variety of colors, shapes, and designs can be seen during the firework shows. The length of the firework shows can vary. In many cities, the show lasts about 45 minutes. When the show is over, the viewers cheer loudly. Some people immediately pack up their belongings and go home. Others light sparklers and draw images with their brightly shining wands. Children especially enjoy using sparklers. Some people will return to their homes and light their own fireworks. Each state has different laws that determine how large and loud the fireworks can be. If someone lights illegal fireworks, that person, may get into trouble with the police for breaking the law. Although many people find lighting fireworks to be a fun and exciting experience, it is important to remember that safety must come first. In some cases, people that hold the fireworks for too long while lighting it get badly injured. One nice thing about going to a firework show, even though the shows can be quite crowded, is that people can enjoy watching fireworks without risk of injury.
No 4th of July would be complete without making and eating s’mores. S’mores are made of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. To make a s’more, you put a marshmallow on a stick or a long metal skewer and roast the marshmallow over a fire. The fire should not be too powerful. Many people will wait until the fire is weak before roasting the marshmallow over the coals. Once the marshmallow is toasted, you place it on top of a graham cracker square that has a piece of chocolate on it. Then, you add a second graham cracker square to form a sandwich. S’mores are also often made when people go camping and have a bon fire. This tasty treat may not be red, white, and blue, but it often brings back fond memories of American summers and celebrating the 4th of July.