Saturday night, June 23, right after dusk, fireworks went off somewhere on the other side of Three Mile Harbor. Our dog went a little nuts, barking and pacing back and forth. I talked to her and quieted her down.
“They’re just celebrating the Fourth of July,” I told her.
She wagged her tail. “On June 23?” she asked.
Indeed it is apparently going to be a long, long holiday—this year anyway. Since July 4 falls on a Wednesday, people don’t really know when to celebrate it. They say they will do so on the weekend of June 29-30. Or July 4 itself. Or the weekend of July 6-7. Or all of the above. Well, why not June 23? We enjoyed it. Though the dog didn’t.
The official holiday, when all the government offices are closed, is the day itself, Wednesday, July 4. No nonsense there. As for the rest of us, it’s a different matter.
“We’ll be coming out on the July 4th weekend,” people say. Usually that’s the end of it. Not this year.
The appearance of July 4 on Wednesday happens once every seven years, although it could be every six years or eight years. (Leap year enters into it.)
In any case, June 23 seems far too early to be firing off fireworks. Certainly on June 23, 1776, things hadn’t come to a head. On June 23, 1776, officials in Philadelphia were still meeting and discussing what should be in the Declaration. Jefferson would come in, listen to what Adams or Franklin were saying, then go back to his room to cross something out and write it a different way.
By the way, you might have thought that on June 23, the signers from those faraway colonies of New Hampshire and Georgia would be in their stagecoaches on their way to Philadelphia. But they weren’t. It was just too far to travel over bumpy dirt roads in any reasonable amount of time back then and so those far away colonial leaders stayed home and waited until the Declaration, after those from the nearby colonies signed it, got brought around to them during the weeks following July 4.
Finally, by about August 2, the July Fourth Declaration was fully agreed to and signed by everybody. So as you see, July Fourth was all over the place, even back then.
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who, in 1941, finally straightened out the mess that another holiday was in. I refer to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was first thought up by the first American Congress in 1789. At their concluding session that year, the Congress asked President Washington to declare a certain date as “a day of Thanksgiving.” The President said okay, it will be on November 26, 1789 and it was.
As the years went by, different Presidents chose different dates of the year for that “day of Thanksgiving,” some of which were not even in November. In 1863, President Lincoln ended the confusion by making it the fourth Thursday in November. In 1939, President Roosevelt decided to move the holiday to the third Thursday in November to give the country more time for holiday shopping—we were in a recession at the time. But two years later he changed his mind and returned it to the fourth Thursday in November. And so it is today.
More problems have accompanied the celebrating of Washington’s Birthday on February 22 and Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12. This was too many holidays for February, thought Congress during the presidency of Richard Nixon. So now we pretend these two were born on the same day, which we call Presidents’ Day.
As for the Fourth of July, there will be those fortunate people who will be out here in our beautiful summer resort for nine days, from Friday June 29 to July 8, to celebrate the birth of our nation. There will be others who will stand up and salute at noon on July 4 when the pen hit the inkwell and the scratching on the paper on July 4, 1776 made its first dent. Then they will sit back down.
Indeed, it was with that that the greatest nation in the world, ever, was born. In a stroke. Enjoy it.
HERE IS HOW WE ARE CELEBRATING
JULY 4th ON EASTERN LONG ISLAND
Annual Fourth of July Parade
July 4, 10 a.m., Begins at the railroad station and continues down North Main Street, Main Street, Jobs Lane and ends at Agawam Park.
Annual Fourth of July Parade
July 4, noon, Boisseau Ave. to Tucker’s Lane, Southold.
Cormaria Summer Gala
Sat., June 30, 6-10 p.m.
Sag Harbor Fireworks Display
Sat., June 30, 9:30 p.m.
Havens Beach, Marine Park, Long Wharf
North Sea Fireworks (part of carnival)
Sat., June 30, and Tues., July 3, 10 p.m.
North Sea Fireman’s Memorial Field
Noyac Rd, North Sea
Wed., July 4, 9 p.m.
Wed., July 4, 9-10 p.m
Any Montauk Town Beach
Fri., July 6, Dusk (around 9 p.m.)
Benefit at Coopers Beach
Greenport (part of carnival)
Wed., July 4, Sat July 7, 10 p.m.
Sat., July 7, 9:15 pm
Devon Yacht Club, Abraham’s Landing Rd