Fourth of July, celebrating our country’s founding
While most holidays have roots around the world, Independence Day is arguably the United States’ signature holiday. Thus, it is a prime opportunity for parishes and communities to celebrate the nation’s founding with newcomers.
Commonly known as the Fourth of July, this annual holiday honors July 4, 1776, the day the Continental Congress unanimously voted to declare freedom from Great Britain and officially adopt the Declaration of Independence. July 4 later became a state holiday in Massachusetts in 1781, then a federal holiday in 1941.
Across the country, Independence Day is celebrated as a community. Participants wear red, white or blue as they gather for barbeques, parades, group picnics and fireworks. Parishes, most often, offer an important venue for such celebrations.
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, for example, has hosted their “4th of July Ole!” parish festival for more than 25 years. Originally a barbeque for the congregation, the event has blossomed into an exciting community gathering featuring food from around the world, music, entertainment, games and an open-air market, alongside fireworks and live music provided by the City of Indianapolis. Both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking members of their congregation work together to plan the event in a way that reflects diverse traditions. Music and food often are two ways different cultures are woven cohesively throughout the celebration. For example, festival goers will find traditional Salvadoran pupusas and American hot dogs to eat while they listen to lively music written by John Phillip Sousa or songs appropriate to dance the salsa or merengue.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, known as USCCB, also uses this mid-year holiday as an opportunity to highlight the importance of welcoming the stranger. During the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, USCCB sponsors their annual Fortnight for Freedom campaign, which provides materials and support for diocesan efforts promoting religious freedom, including the freedom to serve and protect immigrants and refugees. While highlighted in July, these materials are available for parishes to use all year long to uplift the Catholic Church’s long-standing and vital role in immigrant integration.
Since families deal with so much throughout the year, Independence Day is a fun reminder to stop and reflect on all that this nation has accomplished. Parishes, especially, can use this time to celebrate and honor American history and culture that has arisen in large part due to our immigrant history.
CLINIC celebrates parish and community-based efforts to welcome immigrants into American culture, especially at the local level.