4th of July – What does it mean to you?

Photo via Flickr (Atomic Taco)

In the spirit of the fourth of July, Niagara interns Brandon and Danny paid a visit to Millennium park to ask the people of Chicago their opinions on the holiday. Opinions came from a wide array of different places ranging from Chicago, to England, to China. For most people, the fourth of July is time for relaxing, bbq-ing, and spending time with family. However, with Chicago being as diverse as it is, the responses received varied from being sentimental to eccentric.

When asked of the significance of patriotism, park goers defined it as a freedom for leisure, and an escape from judgement. It was a time for having discussions about life, politics and “going on intellectual dates”. It also held special significance to those who found their way to America from abroad, as one response came from a man who arrived in the United States when he was 14 years old from Mexico. When asked about patriotism, he answered by proudly saying “I always celebrate the fourth”, giving testament to America being a nation of many people brought together.

John and Sophie were another pair of visitors to Chicago who graciously accepted to answer Brandon and Danny’s questions before telling them they were English. The two jokingly said the holiday was like “celebrating a 200 year old grudge”. On the fourth they plan to celebrate alongside everyone else, enjoying the fireworks and eating under the lights. While the fourth was once a victory cry signaling the end of British rule. It is now a time where people from all backgrounds can come together.

The day was also a time for reflection on the sacrifices of those who served and continue to serve. Lt. Smith was a courteous man in military garb who, instead of defining patriotism as pride, defined it as a nation making the right decisions and promoting safe society. He plans to celebrate the fourth with his military team as well as thank his two sons who are also in the military for their service. For some the fourth is a reminder to their duty to the United States, and the principles it was founded upon. A man named Vincent described it as “a celebration of what makes the country unique”.

While sitting at a table next to the bean, a woman gave her fourth of July the moniker of a “warzone of fireworks” as she told the story of neighbors on both ends of her street who illuminate the night with a barrage of light and fire. Neighborhood activities, picnics and parades were a central theme in many fourth of July plans. For others it was simply a day to relax. It is a day where the taxing work of everyday life gives credence to peaceful listlessness. One man in the park described the fourth as another day where he is happy to be alive, as he kept a watchful eye on his young daughter playing in the foreground.

A youthful table of men bluntly described the day as one for celebrating their pride in America and plan to celebrate with beach, food, and family. One responder added by saying his family smokes and grills a “plethora of meat” including things such as duck, squirrel and rabbit. Unlike Christmas, or Thanksgiving, the fourth of July has no concrete tradition besides its fireworks, according to a local Chicagoan enjoying the sun in Millenium park. She believes the fourth gives one a chance to be creative. The holiday beckons us to celebrate in whatever way we see fit whether it be relaxing in Lake Geneva, illuminating the night sky, or simply staying home. Regardless of how you plan to celebrate, we at the Niagara Foundation hope you have a great fourth of July weekend.

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.