Culture Corner: Showing Our Colors

4julyWith Independence Day, the 4th of July, approaching, visitors to the United States will notice decorations in red, white and blue everywhere. Stores sell American flags, banners, balloons and other party ware for the 4th of July picnics and bar-b-ques.  Many people make an extra effort to adorn their homes with American flags and other red, white and blue decorations.  At the 4th of July parades in towns all over the USA, people will wave American flags, wear red, white and blue clothing, hats, scarves and jewelry. Some may even paint their faces, hair, or beards with these colors, too! On this special day of celebrating America’s declaration of  independence from Britain in 1776 and the start of the Revolutionary War, most Americans feel the desire to “show the colors” in a demonstration of patriotism.

All of this may seem strange to some people from other countries. While it is very common to see the American flag flying outside a private home here in the USA every day, it is not the usual custom in all cultures and countries. In some parts of the world the nation’s flag is only displayed by private individuals on special occasions, and citizens only wave their national flag at important events, such as the Olympics or major political or national celebrations. In general, Americans are very demonstrative regarding their flag and their feelings of patriotism, and they show it in a big way.

You may find it interesting to know about the history and symbolism of the American flag. It has the same color scheme as the flag of Britain that once ruled over the early inhabitants of the east coast of what is now the United States. While the colors are the same, the configuration and meanings are different. Red stands for courage, white stands for purity, and blue stands for justice. There were thirteen original colonies here in North America that fought against Britain for independence, and those colonies became the original thirteen states. They are: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.  The thirteen red and white stripes on the flag represent the original colonies. The first official flag created at the request of Revolutionary War General George Washington, was sewn by a young woman named Betsy Ross. That flag had thirteen stars, representing the states of the newly formed country, arranged in a circle on the blue field. Over time, as each new state joined the USA, a star was added to the field of blue to represent it. The pattern was altered to put the stars in rows, and now there are 50 stars.

The 4th of July is a major national holiday, and the celebrations of parades, parties, and fireworks make it the favorite event of the summer. Government offices and most businesses are closed on the 4th of July, and a general party atmosphere is felt across the country. Please come on out and join the fun as Americans show our colors and have a good time!

Gail Patterson

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