Getting ready for the Fourth of July can be as exciting as decorating for Christmas
Red, White, and Blue, and Happy Fourth to you!
Good morning, my dear readers!
I hope you are enjoying the summer. We know we are truly in the midst of summer when we start seeing the impact of red, white and blue spring up in yards and businesses. Here we are again, about to celebrate the birth of our wonderful nation on the Fourth of July.
So, what does all that red, white and blue mean? According to legend, George Washington interpreted the elements of the flag this way: the stars were taken from the sky, the red from the British colors and the white stripes signified the secession from the home country. According to my research, however, the colors don’t symbolize anything. The red, white and blue had no meaning when selected in 1777! I found that so hard to believe! But the colors in the Great Seal did have meaning, according to Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress:
“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance.”
As I have touted on many occasions, color is a great way to make a statement and communicate. Our forefathers clearly understood this as well: Color has power. The colors they chose unite our country, show our loyalty and make us recognizable to the entire world.
The Legend of the Flag
You may have learned in grade school that Betsy Ross designed our red, white and blue flag. But believe it or not, that story didn’t come out until her grandson shared it in 1870—100 years after the accepted flag design. Ross’s grandson, William Canby, told the story in a speech to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. While the facts of this story are unconfirmed, they are interesting so I will share what I learned.
Betsy Ross was actually an upholsterer, but it was not unusual for someone with her profession to make flags. She disliked the crudely drawn sketch she received from “the flag committee” and identified various design flaws: The flag was square, the stars were scattered about without order, and the stars had six points instead of five. Betsy believed flags should be one-third longer than they were wide, and she thought the stars should have some order. According to the legend, Ross brought together the flag's 13 stripes and 13 stars to represent the original colonies. She positioned the stars into a circle on the field of blue. Today, of course, we maintain the original 13 stripes with a star for each of the 50 states. As with most flags from this period, the location of this flag is, sadly, unknown.
I do love the history part of design, it creates a foundation of how particular design began. With all this in mind, let’s look at some Fourth of July decorating ideas.
Show your colors
I find getting ready for the Fourth of July as exciting as decorating for Christmas. I may not decorate to the same excess, but I still do it up for this wonderful summer holiday. Independence Days gives us all the opportunity to create a “God Bless America Home.” Nothing is as charming or patriotic as driving up and down our tree-lined streets and viewing all the homes dressed in red, white and blue bunting, loudly proclaiming with color, “I am blessed by where I live!”
Hosting a Fourth of July barbecue is as American as apple pie. Take a step outside your door on this day for a whiff of charcoal or the smell of a string of firecrackers just lit by a group of giggling neighbor kids. It happens in communities large and small. We celebrate with parades, festivals, concerts, decorations, lots of food and, of course, amazing fireworks displays that finish off this glorious day.
First, go crazy with a variety of flag sizes: Add them to pots on the porch, patio and window boxes. Red, white and blue should be everywhere you look. Don't forget the patriotic music, nothing starts the day off like a good dose of Yankee Doodle Dandy! Now let’s design a buffet for all that wonderful food. I have my own ideas about how to display the explosion of food for the Fourth, but I’ve also borrowed ideas from a variety of places.
• The menu. Start with a menu board for all to see. I have a chalkboard that I’ve used for years for this very purpose. Take a look at the blog at www.TalkOfTheHouse.com for examples—oh my gosh, this woman is dripping with creativity! She suggests using a chalkboard behind an array of burgers (beef and turkey) with fabulous combinations of condiments and toppings. Brilliant!
• Lead the buffet off with perhaps a galvanized watering bucket that has some patina loaded with fresh flowers. Elevate on some stacked bricks to give the plates a nice back drop. Add an assortment of flags or maybe patriotic windmills to the bouquet and tie a bandana in a square knot on the handle. Set all the wonderful elements on a cloth that vibrantly says "bang" for the 4th! Fill an old white crock pitcher with boxes of sparklers. Here and there on the table have bowls or trays of packaged fireworks tied up in ribbon with stars to add to a fun presentation, putting them right at your finger tips for use later!
• The plates. Paper plates become airborne in our Kansas breezes, so plastic or melamine plates are a given for outdoor dining. Indulge yourself and make an investment in some attractive ones—maybe solid red or blue, which will also work for your KU tailgates. Buy wisely and you’ll use them over and over again.
• The appetizers. Remember those hurricane lamps I keep bringing up? Here’s a wonderful idea for adding an array of color to your appetizers or buffet table! Load the bottom of them with a variety of cherry tomatoes and then stand up celery, blanched asparagus, sliced cucumbers (long), carrots, and red and yellow peppers. So pretty and fresh! Include a couple of interesting veggie dips to accompany the fresh produce and keep some of the calories at bay with this menu idea.
• The food. My Fourth of July menu includes grilled burgers and hot dogs, an extravaganza of burger toppings that includes an assortment of cheeses, sautéed mushrooms and onions, Wilma’s pasta salad (yum), fresh fruit kabobs with blueberries, bananas, and strawberries.
• The flatware. Tempted to put the flatware up with the plates? Put them at the end of the buffet to keep hands free for holding and loading plates. Try using red and blue bandanas as the napkin. Open it up, place the flatware in it and bring the four corners up. Place the entire bundle into a mason jar for use as a drinking glass. Lay the four corners out over the lip of the jar, and top it off with a miniature flag! Check out all the yummy plastic outdoor dinnerware at Walmart; I was just giddy with the practical plastic pieces! Now you have your napkin, drinking glass, flatware, and a flag for the fireworks.
• The drinks. Load a rain tub or an old red wagon with refreshing drinks—in the red, white and blue color theme—buried in ice. Have another bucket loaded with old fashioned paper straws in red, white, and blue. Excess is good for the Fourth!
• The dessert. Homemade ice cream is a must on this American holiday, and most of us have a family recipe. Add a pan of chocolate brownies, blonde Betty’s brownies or even a classic cherry pie for dessert. It doesn’t get any more American!
Finally, we’re ready for the day’s fabulous finale: the fireworks. According to History.com, Americans first celebrated with fireworks on July 8, 1776. England celebrated royal birthdays with fireworks, so the new Americans thought a fireworks display was fitting to signify the “death” of the king’s rule over them. On July 4, 1777, they celebrated in Philadelphia (the capital at the time) by firing guns, shooting off canons, lighting bonfires and exploding fireworks into the night air. Soon after, many cities took up this style of celebrating.
I have to say, I am rather happy that the only part of this celebration that remains is the fireworks displays. (I do love the canons during the 1812 Overture, though!).
Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!