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Staying Apart, Together: How to have a happy 4th of July, however you can

  • July 03, 2020

Editor’s Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY’s newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here

Hello my friends, I’m writing to you a day before expected because of the 4th of July holiday tomorrow. 

Any given day during the pandemic, our lives are changed. But it’s not like we can pinpoint exactly what office gossip we’re missing at the water cooler if life was normal, or how congested traffic would be or what lesson our kids wouldn’t be paying attention to at school. 

But I could tell you exactly where I think I’d have been on the 4th of July if the world hadn’t changed. I’d have been at the Welcome America festival in Philadelphia. I’d have enjoyed a barbecue at my in-laws. I’d have watched fireworks sitting next to strangers. 

Stock photo.

This year I won’t be doing any of those things. It’s hard, but after Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, weddings, baby showers and more in quarantine, we are used to it, even if getting used to the new world is sad in and of itself. But we also are more experienced at finding the good parts of a celebration in quarantine. 

This weekend my husband and I will make ribs, cornbread and roasted veggies, we’ll do a movie marathon with films like “Independence Day,” “Glory” and “Hamilton,” we’ll Zoom with our families and watch fireworks on TV. It won’t be the same, but planning a menu, deciding what movies would be most celebratory and taking our pick of firework shows on TV has its own joy. It’s a different kind of joy than hugging friends and family or seeing colors explode in the sky right above us, but I’ll take any reason to be happy right now. 

How to safely celebrate the 4th of July during the COVID-19 pandemic

Today’s 4th of July in quarantine tips

While I would be flattered if any of you repeated my Independence Day game plan, there are plenty of different ways to celebrate America’s holiday while maintaining safety and social distance. My colleagues Charlie Trepany and Jenna Ryu have been rounding up ideas from experts:

Wear red, white and blue clothes: Seri Kertzner, chief party officer at the New York-based event and styling company Little Miss Party Planner, says wearing red, white and blue takes on more meaning. “You need to be the fireworks this year,” she says. “Dressing up makes it that much more fun.”

Ditch at-home fireworks for confetti cannons: Fireworks sales are booming across the nation, but these at-home displays can come with legal and safety risks (especially as local crackdowns on illegal use rise). As an alternative, Miami-based event consultant and lifestyle expert Carrie Zack recommends small confetti cannons, which are often used at gender reveal parties and weddings, where fireworks and sparklers are prohibited.

Show veterans gratitude: Atlanta-based wedding planner Suzanne Reinhard recommends kicking off the Fourth of July by writing thank you letters to members of the military through Operation Gratitude. “A lot of us have been sad for what’s been missing,” she says. “But we are so blessed, and there is so much goodness that we have to be thankful for.”

Celebrate on your TV: Movie marathons of Americana-themed films like the ones I mentioned above are another way to celebrate. Want recommendations beyond “Independence Day?” How about “Top Gun,” “Saving Private Ryan” or great episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “The West Wing”? Plus there are plenty of fireworks airing on TV. See the full list here. 

Register to vote: Perhaps the most patriotic way to celebrate the Fourth of July is to make sure your voice is heard in upcoming elections, Kertzner says. In order to celebrate your right to vote this Independence Day, Kertzner recommends encouraging loved ones to register to vote and perhaps starting respectful political dialogue with friends and family. You could even make some yummy voting-themed desserts.

See the full list of safe celebration ideas here and TV and film recommendations here

The fireworks business receives most of its revenue in the leadup to the 4th of July holiday. That revenue has surged recently.

Today’s kid activity

Those of us 18 and over aren’t the only ones missing out on a summer vacation this year. 

Many American children won’t get to spend their time off from school (or, well, distance learning) at the beach or on a road trip to the grand canyon or at Disney World. But there are still ways to get into the vacation mood without leaving home. 

USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll worked with the Smithsonian to create a handy activity packet (in English and Spanish) that takes kids on an imaginary road trip across the USA, ending at the Smithsonian Castle, which, as the packet points out, is a real castle

Check it out here

Summer Road Trip Guide from USA TODAY and the Smithsonian.

Today’s reads

Today’s suggestions for calm, from YOU

In my absence my editor Alison Maxwellasked you to send in what helps you keep calm and cope through all of this, and here are three submissions we loved:

I go bicycling. I’m so glad I had a sport/hobby that didn’t get sidelined by the pandemic. It’s outdoors, it can be done with social distancing and no one looks at you weird for wearing a mask – which most of us do in the winter time anyway.
Whether I’m with a family member or a friend (or two), I’m out of my house, away from my computer and almost never stop to answer my phone rings. It kind ofreminds me of when I was 12 years old – and we didn’t have cell phones back then so if Mom called, she had to yell REALLY loud!!  -Deana Sun

 I take walks when I’m feeling discombobulated. Usually I walk in my neighborhood which has wide open space and beautiful natural surroundings. However, there are times when I need something more. I need to visit the Cornell Botanic Gardens with gorgeous flowers and a Winter Garden with an assortment of evergreen and deciduous trees. Or, I pay a visit to the Cornell Arboretum.There are winding paths that take me to a pond where I look for turtles, to the overlook with its large gong where I stop the enjoy the panoramic view and maybe gently ring the gong or just meander around the vast grounds. Being close to nature is healing wherever you find it. -Joyce White

Our senior Cocker Spaniel, Teddy Pepper, and new dachshund puppy, Kobi, entertain and distract me daily!  -Suzanne Thomas

Teddy Pepper and Kobi

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