Celebrating Summertime Freedom Days~
Written by Amber O’Neal Johnston from Heritage Mom
Teaching our children the value of freedom is a gift that will pay dividends through the generations. In the United States, summertime is a lovely opportunity to celebrate liberation because of Juneteenth National Independence Day and the Fourth of July Independence Day. Both days open the door for diving deeper into history while celebrating how far we’ve come, and most countries have similar days of remembrance that are unique to their historical context.
While some families only focus on one or the other, celebrating Juneteenth and July 4th offers our children a more complete vision of our nation, its struggles, and its triumphs. The hearty acknowledgment of both days within our homes can set a tone of connection and kinship within communities and across ethnicities nationwide. And embracing our collective freedoms inspires people worldwide who are still fighting for liberty and justice today.
The Fourth of July addresses national freedom by commemorating the Declaration of Independence. It’s a critically important date in our nation’s history, but it’s complicated by the fact that the political freedom it celebrates didn’t apply to everyone. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Americans were not liberated that day.
Juneteenth celebrates individual freedom as it honors the end of slavery and the early crumbling of contradictory policies and practices incompatible with a healthy nation. National and personal freedoms are cornerstones of the American way of life. Though we are fallible and imperfect in our execution, we can stand united on the ideals and our collective commitment to cleaving to them.
June 19th, a day that has long been celebrated, was first recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. Since then, some media outlets have presented it as a day only or primarily relevant to Black Americans, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, Juneteenth embodies the liberties we all enjoy, and it acknowledges one of the most pivotal moments in our collective history, one that brought our nation closer to living out its values in a tangible and monumental way.
Juneteenth is for ALL people.
With our summertime freedom days landing only about two weeks apart, it can be challenging to go all out for both days, but not every celebration requires tremendous effort. Sometimes sweet and simple traditions carried out consistently over the years are more meaningful to our children than occasional grand displays. And though some things are more associated with one day than the other, there are also celebratory aspects shared by Juneteenth and Fourth of July:
Valuing Family and Friends
Both holidays are traditionally celebrated with gatherings of friends and family. The weekends proceeding each day are especially popular for family reunions, but smaller and less formal hangouts are also the norm. These family celebrations often involve storytelling, laughter, games, music, and delicious food.
Preparing and Enjoying Traditional Foods
Cookouts are common on Juneteenth and Fourth of July. Dishes like barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, collard greens or green beans, potato salad, and pie are often part of the menu on both occasions. Juneteenth dinner tables usually include red food and drinks like red velvet cake, watermelon, strawberry soda, and hibiscus tea.
Yet, some of these can also be found at a July 4th cookout – more due to tradition than the symbolism accompanying those items on Juneteenth.
Community-wide Displays of Joy
Communities nationwide have festivals, parades, concerts, picnics, historical reenactments or speeches, fireworks, and other displays of joyful celebration for both holidays. The American Flag is often displayed for the Fourth of July, and the red, white, and blue Juneteenth flag is added during special flag-raising ceremonies. People step away from work, distractions, and even the societal positions that can divide us, to join in a collective remembrance of who we are and what we stand for.
Our children need to see more of this.
Use our summertime freedom days to talk with your children about the importance of liberty and justice for all. Share ways that your family can do its part to help our country and its people stand even stronger in unity while remembering others worldwide who are still struggling for what many Americans take for granted. Have fun, live well, and celebrate these Juneteenth and July 4th weeks with humility and thanksgiving.
Enjoy every moment!
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