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Celebration

Here are some details about activities for the day that would highlight the historical import of the Declaration of Independence, the meaning it had for its signatories, the meaning it still holds for us over two centuries later, and how we might choose to carry the best of the spirit of the American Revolution forward.  These activities are loosely based on the tradition of the Passover Seder and Haggadah, engaging the minds of participants of all generations and improving our recollection of this momentous historical event.

This celebration consists of a retelling and discussion of the history of the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the American Revolution, along with the reading and discussion of  a New Declaration, and the sharing of special foods.  Remember, declaring independence was not a picnic!

We invite Americans and other revolutionary thinkers to adopt and modify these suggestions to suit their own needs and understandings.  The ideas, suggestions and materials below are a starting point – we encourage creativity to suit your gathering. We hope that you will play with it, and then post a reply here with what you did, what was the most fun for you, what worked and what didn’t in your event.

The ritual observance we propose for Independence Day consists of several interwoven pieces shared by a small gathering of friends and/or family.  We suggest this as an afternoon activity (allowing it to fit between the parades and fireworks that are now part of the traditional celebration if need be).

    • We suggest sitting in a circle, so all present can easily see, hear and interact with one another.  Like the Passover, one among the group (perhaps the youngest) should start by asking a question like “What makes today special?”  The response to this question will be a brief (10 minute or so) retelling of what we wish to remember about the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the American Revolution (use ours or construct your own, see the History page for more information and suggestions).  The story may be told by one individual, or each paragraph or section may be read aloud by different participants.
  • Discussion of the History:
    • We believe that the discussion components of the observance are particularly critical to instill or reawaken the skills of discourse and debate in all participants.  It honors the process behind the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the other founding documents of the United States of America.  The Founders believed that political discussion of our differences was essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy.
    • Provide opportunity for everybody to comment on what the History means to them in their current situation. Go around the circle, and be sure that everyone’s viewpoint is heard and counted.  None must be excluded, and none should be made to feel inadequate or inappropriate. Discussion may continue once all have had their chance to speak their mind, so long as all are engaged and participating, whether by contributing or actively listening.
  • Food to Connect with History:
    • Begin by letting everyone take a piece of vegetable to dip into a shared bowl of salt water.  One person should explain the significance of the salt water as a reminder of the tears for the hardship and struggles that went along with declaring Independence, before each person in turn dips their vegetable and tastes it.  After everyone has tasted the salt, ask them to pause and reflect on the tears of grief that accompanied the suffering in our shared history.  One person may then offer a toast, asking the participants to drink to the strength we find in each other to survive through grief and adversity.
    • Next, serve the dish or dishes with the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans and summer squash).  Again, one person should explain the significance of the combination of the three foods as a representation of a diverse and interdependent community, where each lends their strengths to the benefit of all, before your gathered community begins to eat. One person may then offer a toast, asking the participants to drink to the diverse strengths found in your community.
  • Discussion of the Future:
    • Ask everyone to comment on their response to the New Declaration and how they plan to act on it in the coming year.
    • One person should explain the significance of the colors of the dessert.  The Red, White and Blue may simply refer to patriotism and the colors of the U.S. Flag.  If you wish, you could choose to specifically mention the ideas that the White signifies wholesomeness and clarity, Red signifies hardiness and valor, and Blue signifies vigilance and justice (from the original explanations associated with the Great Seal of the US) .  If you prefer, you might choose to view the Red as community, the White as equality, and the Blue as freedom (as in the French flag and motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité)
    • One person (the same or another) should then explain the importance of beauty and sweetness of the dessert, signifying the potential for a better future.  One person may then offer a toast, asking the participants to drink to the joy of working together to build the future we want for our community.  After admiring the beauty of the dessert, it can be shared and eaten.
  • Song:
    • End by singing some appropriate songs together.  We recommend songs like “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” (not that it’s entirely unproblematic).  You may want to avoid “The Star-Spangled Banner” if you don’t like the emphasis on violence, or if you are not a group of professional singers, as this is a very problematic song.
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2010 8:05 pm

    Our celebration went very well, with excellent discussions and good camaraderie. We did make a few changes to the above plan:
    1. we put the meal with the “Three Sisters” (a Three-Sisters cornbread, and a black bean and fresh corn salad) after the discussion of the New Declaration of Interdependence, because we felt that the meal would detract from the conversation. This worked pretty well for us. Did anyone out there try the plan as scheduled above?
    2. Barbara told a version of the history of the Declaration that focused more on the philosophical shifts associated with the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther in 1517 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and how that had shaped the thinking of the colonial writers of the Declaration of Independence.
    Together, these changes encouraged a deeper discussion of the dynamic balance between the individual and the community, as shown by the notions of Independence and Interdependence.
    Let us know how your celebration went, or your thoughts for what to do next year.

Trackbacks

  1. What does Independence Day mean to you? « Re-imagining Independence Day
  2. Declaring Independent Interdependence | Ponderings of a Perplexed Primate

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