Full disclosure: I rarely celebrate the 4th of July. In fact, despite living in New York City, this year was the first time I’d ever seen the official Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show (from a friend’s rooftop and yes, it was pretty awesome).
This symbolic long weekend (one of the few that people actually take off as vacation in the USA) is usually filled with fireworks, BBQs and beach time across the country. For my neighbourhood, though, we’ve always had our own celebration, on the Thursday before the big day (so, NOT the 4th).
Astoria, Queens is a pretty amazing neighbourhood and even though it’s changed a lot in the past three years, it’s still very community-oriented. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had a “4th of July celebration” in Astoria Park right on the water a few days before the official fireworks show. Everyone gets there early to picnic before the show, and it starts really getting packed around 5:30pm, as people come straight from work, bringing blankets, sandwiches, chips, fruit, cheese, and drinks.
I used to go with my family, but as more of my friends have moved into Astoria, it’s become a huge party with a huge blanket for my family and a huge blanket for my friends. Everyone just eats, chats, and listens to the live symphony set up along the water. Then, once it’s finally dark, the show starts. There’s something so incredible about being so close to it all; I love to lie back on the blanket and watch the fireworks burst up above me.
In a city where we rarely identify as ‘American’ (New Yorkers tend to identify first by their ethnicity, then secondly as a ‘New Yorker’), the 4th of July celebrations are definitely the one time where we unabashedly embrace our patriotism. We listen to patriotic music and feel gratitude for what we have as Americans.