A. Gnott – Week Three – Description of a Ritual

Section 1: Ethnography

I chose to examine the ritual of the United States’ Independence Day or Fourth of July. There is no one specific setting or location in the US where the Fourth of July is celebrated. From large cities to rural country areas, nearly all Americans celebrate the prideful holiday. In some areas, parades are held in the cities and many people gather to watch the flag be flown. Red, white, and blue clothes are worn to these events, matching the colors on the American flag.

Groups of friends and family often come together and throw parties to honor the United States’ independence from Great Britain. Again, at these parties, red, white, and blue colored attire is worn to match the colors on the American flag. Food is usually prepared for everyone in the form of a cookout. Common foods at these parties include classic American meals such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and cheeseburgers. Because the weather in the United States is often warm during the Fourth of July, these parties are held near water, at lake houses or homes with pools. The general atmosphere of these parties or the parades is a sense of pride toward the country and a happiness to be celebrating freedom.

A firework is a device that contains some explosive chemicals that gets shot up into the air, exploding into colorful bursts of sparks, usually used during celebrations. Fireworks are classic symbols of Independence Day. Masses of people generally go to fireworks stands to purchase fireworks at this time of the year. These can be expensive but the firework shows are staples for this ritual. Some practitioners set off fireworks by themselves with their family and friends at their own home while others opt for larger shows on lakes or near colleges. The shows are performed when it becomes dark outside and the explosions can be heard throughout the entirety of the night. Fireworks are sometimes used before and after July Fourth making Independence Day seem like a celebration lasting for over one day.

During this ritual, some typical songs are played and heard. “The Star Spangled Banner” is the national anthem and is typically played and sung on this day. Other songs played on the Fourth of July, like “I’m Proud to be an American,” are sung at the parades and parties mentioned above.

Section 2: Analyze

The events at the Fourth of July ritual all point to one main purpose: to convey pride in the United States. The fireworks often represent freedom while the songs are played and sung to cherish that freedom. The red, white, and blue attire is worn to also convey pride and show that people are proud to be in the United States.

Independence day is a Rite of Intensification. The Fourth of July intensifies social bonds by everyone conveying pride in the United States. The holiday brings people together as everyone is dressed in similar attire and performing similar tasks like shooting off fireworks. It also represents the function of Value Repetition. Celebrating this holiday once a year promotes loyalty to the country.

I believe the Fourth of July definitely falls into the Rite of Intensification category and could possibly be included as a Rite of Reversal to a lesser extent. Setting off fireworks and dressing in all red white and blue is not a “normal” day for the average American, leading to the assumption that some July Fourth events can be considered unusual or taboo.

Leave a Reply