Of the many firsts I knew a summer at camp would bring, I was probably most intrigued about Independence Day. I was curious to see first-hand the well-documented patriotism and celebrations which are observed annually on the Fourth of July – here’s how my camp celebrated.
I work at a performing arts-focused camp, so it was bound to be noisy. I received warning of the marching band parade which wakes up each bunk in turn at 6am a day in advance: I’m actually “non-bunk” (I live in staff-only accommodation), so I was sort of spared the early wake up call. However, I was on horse-feeding duty that day, which meant my alarm was set for 6:30am anyway – the staff I was on duty with were at the barn earlier than I was, due to their extra-early wake up call.
We had been warned by the directors that the Brits should wear swimwear under their clothes on Independence Day, as it’s traditional to throw us in the lake. I spent a week telling anyone who asked that I’d actually be impressed if any child could chuck me in – not only am I heavy, but I also work about as far away from the lake as it’s possible to be. I stayed dry (though did get a bucket of cold water thrown on me the following day, but that was part of a larger water fight due to the hot temperature of the afternoon), but many other counsellors didn’t.
The day continued fairly normally from there until the evening, when our camp celebrates multi-culturalism by asking all international staff to make a presentation on their country for the staff and campers. The UK was split by country, which for me was disappointing, as I prefer to think of us as a United Kingdom (although I’m in the US for the summer, I’m fairly sure I’d have heard about Scotland making their own declaration of independence), but the England presentation about queuing was entertaining, and the Scottish contingent fared well by introducing the rest of the camp to Highland Games via the medium of caber tossing.
Following the brief nod to other nations, the American patriotism continued in the form of a lengthy concert (the concert was paused half way through for the youngest children to receive a strong ticking off for refusing to sit still). Admirably, the concert began with the orchestra playing the national anthem of every nation represented at camp – staff and campers were read a list in advance and given the opportunity to point out any countries which had been missed – so in a non-Olympic year, we were afforded the chance to enjoy exotic anthems which are far jollier than our own. The audience were informed that there was no need to sing, but the Australians and Brits stood up and sung regardless.
After the concert, we enjoyed the obligatory – and impressive – firework display. It’s not common to celebrate culture and patriotism this way in the UK, so it was a different experience for me. It made me wonder what an equivalent would be like – would it be on the epic scale of London 2012 and the Diamond Jubliee annually, or would we just put the kettle on and munch on a sandwich? It feels like the UK ties patriotism to sporting events – mainly football – regularly, but that it’s unusual to display our feelings in another context. Perhaps it’s just our quieter nature, as well as our lack of successful revolution, which means that we have nothing to shout about annually.