The Fourth of July is the Greatest Holiday EVER.

July 3rd, 2008

There’s a Jewish holiday about once every three days, which you would think would be a fantastic way to grow up. Not really. I had to explain to several teachers throughout my public education — even the Jewish ones — that yes, Shavout was a real holiday, I’d need to miss school for a couple days, here’s a note from my mom to prove it.

Serendipitously, this got me out of frog dissection in the seventh grade, but that’s the only good thing to come of it. Even my less-observantly-raised Jewish friends didn’t believe these were real holidays and didn’t want to hear my complaining when I was playing catch-up with all the class work I missed. Never mind the fact that my “days off” were spent bored to tears in a stuffy auditorium listening to prayers in another language. (You Catholics don’t know how good you have it with an hour-long mass). Depending on the holiday there might be some decent food afterwards, or no food at all, or worse yet, Passover food. None of it was worth the time away from school.

All of which is precisely why I love the Fourth of July. There’s zero responsibility, which come to think of it, is a pretty good metaphor for America.

I love the Fourth of July for the same reason I love Thanksgiving: I don’t have to go to synagogue the next day (or, as an adult, I don’t have to get a phone call from my mom trying to guilt me into a more observant lifestyle).

Strike that. The Fourth of July is better than Thanksgiving, it’s the best holiday on the American calendar and I’m going to tell you why:

The Fourth of July is better than New Years because there’s no shame or anxiety over not having anyone to kiss at midnight, no major hangover the next morning.

The Fourth of July is better than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day COMBINED because there’s significant historic meaning behind the day. It doesn’t feel like you’re just going through the motions because Hallmark told you to — this is the anniversary of our independence. Spend the day with family and loved ones, or not. Either way you won’t feel bad about not having a date or guilty about not visiting grandma.

The Fourth of July is better than Thanksgiving because, again, there’s no family obligation and frankly, the Thanksgiving television selection has been pretty awful after Fox stopped airing the “Bart breaks Lisa’s centerpiece” episode about 10 years ago. Thanksgiving is a close second (tangible historic context, no religious obligation), but the Fourth of July is in the summer, which means barbecues, swimming pools and fireflies. Thanksgiving is in November, which thanks to global warming might soon mean the same thing.

The Fourth of July is better than Halloween because there’s nothing creepy about an adult going out to watch fireworks. There’s plenty creepy when an adult goes trick-or-treating.

The Fourth of July is better than Labor Day and Memorial Day because people know there’s more to the holiday than a half-off mattress sale.

The Fourth of July, although similar in spirit to President’s Day and Martin Luther King Day, is better than both because there’s a bigger party.

The Fourth of July is better than any religious holiday because it doesn’t exclude any Americans. Okay, America isn’t a perfect country (see: treatment of Indians, Japanese internment, slavery), but to paraphrase Paul McCartney, it’s getting better all the time. There’s nothing exclusionary about the day — even for foreigners. Go downtown tomorrow and I guarantee you’ll meet a bunch of foreign tourists having just as much fun as everyone else.

More specifically:

Christmas is the biggest religious holiday in America and guess what? The Fourth of July is better. There’s no obligation to send saccharine cards to people who couldn’t possibly care what you’ve been up to the past year (newsflash: if they cared, they’d call). There’s no guilt, no stress, no bad gifts and best of all, no fruitcake. Easter, on the other hand, is kind of a downer.

I can’t speak for Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Santeria or Wiccan holidays (am I forgetting anyone?), but I can write with confidence that the Fourth of July is better than any of the Jewish holidays.

The Fourth of July is better than Rosh Hashanna because prayer isn’t exactly the ideal way to ring in a new year. Yom Kippur, like Easter, is also a downer, only without the delicious food.

The Fourth of July is better than Hannukah because the Fourth of July doesn’t try to be the American Canada Day.

There are too many other holidays to list, but suffice it to say the Fourth of July is better than Passover (a root canal is better than Passover), but just barely better than Purim. Purim, for those not in the know (which is probably all of you) is the holiday that celebrates the Book of Esther. It’s also the biggest drinking holiday on the Jewish calendar, a fact lost among most American Jews I know. But Purim doesn’t have extended Metro hours or free cabs.

That’s the other great thing about the Fourth of July. It doesn’t have to be a drinking holiday. New Years is pretty much synonymous with plastered, Fourth of July could go either way and no one would think any less of you, especially because most years it’s on a weeknight.

Not this year. The Fourth of July kicks off a three-day weekend. The weather these past couple days have been nothing short of glorious. I’ll be barbecuing and hopefully swimming with some friends before heading downtown to see the national fireworks. If we make it in time, Huey Lewis and the News are performing on the Capitol Lawn. The fireworks will be over by 9:30, but since it’s still early, a Friday night and we’ll be downtown anyways… well, let’s just say this could be the greatest Fourth of July ever.

However you choose to spend your Fourth, be it at the movies, at a barbecue, at a fireworks display, none of the above, all of the above, the beautiful thing about this holiday is it’s a day without obligation, a day to honor our independence (if you choose to), a day to spend with friends (but only if you want) or a day like any other day. And that’s the beauty an innate Americaness of it.

I’ll close with a bad joke of mine, that I’m sure I’ll repeat tomorrow to my friends’ eye rolling on the National Mall:

“Here we are in a city designed by a Frenchman, sitting under an Egyptian obelisk, over looking a Greek temple and Japanese trees, watching a Chinese invention explode in the sky. Happy birthday, America.”

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072


One comment to “The Fourth of July is the Greatest Holiday EVER.”

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