Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3: Holly, Mistletoe, and Fireworks

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly.  So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses; whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.

As I may have said before, Charles Dickens is pretty much responsible for the things we normally associate with Christmas.  Snow, holly, mistletoe, ivy, roasted turkey, ham--Dickens used all these ingredients to create the stereotypical image of Christmas.  It's pretty safe to say that Bing Crosby wouldn't have sung "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" if good old Chuck hadn't dreamed of it about a century earlier.

Tomorrow is July 4.  For those of my disciples who may not be from the United States, July 4 is the day when we celebrate the birth of our country.  As the story goes in the history books, on July 4, 1776, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, formally declaring our independence from the British crown. 

Now, there are certain stereotypes that have sprouted up around the celebration of the Fourth of July in the United States.  These stereotypes are just as arbitrary and quaint as the stereotypes Charles Dickens established for the celebration of Christmas.  And, for the most part, the Independence Day stereotypes hold pretty true for the little town in Upper Michigan in which I reside.

The day will begin with a community parade.  Early in the morning, people will begin placing folding chairs along the parade route.  Then the horses, motorcycles, dump trucks, marching bands, fire engines, and whatnot will begin to line up.  The parade itself is just an excuse to see neighbors and friends, visit with people you haven't seen for a year (or longer), and acquire a sunburn.

After the parade, if you live in a small town, as I do, everyone gathers in some kind of public park for a community picnic.  Usually, there are food stands to sell things like cotton candy, snow cones, ice cream, popcorn, pizza, hot dogs, and (if you're in Michigan's Upper Peninsula) Cornish pasties and bratwurst.  There are usually games for the kids, potato sack races and the like.  And the adults wander around, guzzling enough beer to put a small German town during Oktoberfest to shame.

At dusk, there's fireworks.  Everyone, drunk and sober, puts blankets down on the grass and watches the display.  As the sky lights up, "ooooohhs" and "aaaaaahhhhs" arise from the assembled crowd.  Sometimes, people will honk car horns for particularly impressive explosions of fiery flowers.  The fireworks usually end with a full two or three minute finale of rocket after rocket, filling the heavens with light and sound.

And then, we all stumble back to our vehicles and drive home.  We're tired, probably dehydrated.  We just want to take a shower, lather our sunburned bodies with aloe, and go to bed.  In the morning, we'll drag ourselves to work, exhausted and sore.  We'll struggle through our job duties at about fifty percent capacity.

And we'll be happy.  Free.  Hungover.

Saint Marty can't wait.  God bless us, everyone.

Break out the fireworks and figgy pudding

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