Is the 4th of July a Ritual? YOU BET IT IS.


Merriam-Webster tells us that a Ritual is a repeated observance marking a significant event.

Have you ever had a “bad” or “hard” Birthday, Mother’s Day, Anniversary, or Thanksgiving? I have. When that was my experience, I remember clearly thinking about how the same event was so different in the past, and its impact on me then and now. There is power in ritual.

After life-changing events, such as death, divorce, relocation, or serious illness, our experience and perspective of these long-celebrated events may feel very different. We move through the event, which may have been just the same as it always was, but WE have changed. It could feel both familiar and distant, comfortable and painful, grounding and lonely all at the same time.

My mother was the “Queen” of the 4th of July.

In every family, there is a “cheerleader.” Someone who makes things happen and whose enthusiasm is ever-present and contagious. They don’t “go to a party;” they ARE the party. When she died in 2015, the air went out of the 4th balloon for me. Revisiting something that was so wonderful and had changed so much was a challenge…and still is.

The ancients have taught us valuable lessons, among them the value of Ritual.

Consider Stonehenge, whose construction and use is determined to be over 5000 years old. There are numerous thoughts about its various purposes, but all seem connected to a central theme: Ritual. Whether going to experience the Winter and Summer Solstice or festivals celebrating ancestors, it pulled people back to a place at the same time of year, maybe even on the same date. Unifying.

One could say (in a certain mindset) that Manchester’s own Fourth of July extravaganza is much the same.

Like me, you might remember parades of old, bands with members carrying swords along each side of the musicians to keep everyone out of the way, or various members of the Gavin family sky diving, the competition of the bands on the playground and undoubtedly you will remember who was there with you. My family’s post was on the corner of School and Pleasant. I’m going out on a limb that many long-time Manchester families and individuals take a sweet and sour trip down memory lane every year. Their trips likely range from painful, to neutral, to precious.

Ritual is how we mark our time.

It’s not silly or insignificant. It’s the act of gathering year after year in places and with people that are sacred to us. We appreciate today and try to be fully present and engaged, but the mental photo album is always open. This year, take a peek at your album. See what comes up for you.

If you experience the cord of attachment that binds us to friends and family, those here and gone, then the Ritual has done its job. Celebrate this year, engaging all those on this side of the sod, and raise a glass to Ritual and our personal history.

Happy Ritual. Happy Remembering. Happy Connection. Happy 4th.

gavin, 4th of july, stonehenge, summer solstice, thanksgiving, cheerleader