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Celebrating Summer Holidays — Virtually

Celebrating Summer Holidays — Virtually

As I write this, it has been seven weeks since my state — California — asked people to stay at home for the most part to try to combat the spread of coronavirus. While we an inching toward having more places to go (wearing a mask, of course), it doesn’t seem probable that there will be mass gatherings — or even smaller ones — to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

Frankly, since I don’t live close to family and my friends are usually off with theirs, I’m used to just hanging with my dog on Memorial Day and July 4th. It will not pain me to do so this summer, but I know many of you will be at the very least disappointed, and maybe downright mad about having to change or even cancel your plans for traveling, attending barbecues or other types of parties, or sitting next to someone not in your immediate household to watch fireworks.

We’ve already seen people’s creativity come into play to celebrate birthdays — the now-popular car parade past the celebrant’s home. It will be interesting to see how people cope as we get deeper into summer and the holidays that traditionally call for getting together with others.

Memorial Day

This is really not a holiday to be celebrated, but a day set aside to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. While there won’t be any parades this year, and visits to cemeteries or memorials may be curtailed, it’s perfectly doable to observe Memorial Day at home. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you have children, educate them on the history of Memorial Day — something easily researched — and explain how important it is to honor those who died fighting for their country.

  • Participate in the national moment of remembrance — which takes place at 3 p.m. local time.

  • Create a game of Memorial Day trivia — again, something easily researched — that features facts like what is its official birthplace (Waterloo, New York), what was it originally called (Decoration Day) and when was it originally observed (May 30, until after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed; since 1971, it’s been the last Monday in May).

The American Legion has also started a campaign to honor fallen heroes. It is asking folks to send them the names of those they will honor and remember on Memorial Day so they can be shared over its social media channels over the Memorial Day weekend. Learn more here.

And, you can still fire up the grill and prepare your famous potato salad for your family to enjoy, but you also might think about doing something to support service people, veterans and their families, such as:

  • Send a care package to a service person. (Check out organizations like Support Our Troops.)

  • Donate to Armed Services YMCA.

  • Check in on veterans and service people you know with a call or FaceTime.

  • Learn how to help veterans in crisis. (The Veterans Crisis Line offers tips.)

  • Donate to Wounded Warriors Family Support.

July 4th

Traditional Independence Day celebrations feature picnics, barbecues, parades and fireworks after dark. Since the situation evolves rather quickly, there’s no telling what mandates will be in place on July 4, but some planning has already been done to hold virtual celebrations.

In Los Angeles, the Grand Park 4th of July block party is going online. The event’s organizers say the three-hour, family-friendly event will include cooking demonstrations, comedy ensembles, music performances and workshops — all streamed live online.

In Frankenmuth, Mich., the Volkslaufe (German for The People’s Race) will be held virtually, to “Run for the Fireworks.” Official Volkslaufe Dri-Fit shirts, commemorative medals and race numbers will still be issued to participants — who will be able to upload their virtual times — and proceeds from runner sponsorship will go toward funding the July 3 fireworks display.

In Edina, Minn., the traditional 4th of July parade will be replaced with an alternative parade experience that will likely include film clips of community and entertainment groups, tributes to grand marshals, and interviews with sponsors — broadcast via local TV. Also planned are interactive activities like best patriotic family photo, patriotic pets and a yard decorating contest, with online voting and prizes.

With down payments on fireworks coming due this month, communities are having to decide whether to proceed with the most iconic way of celebrating the 4th of July. Two Washington cities have made different decisions. Carnation, which canceled its Fourth of July parade, has decided the fireworks will go on. Its vendor will scrap the low fireworks and focus on those with high explosions, in the hope residents can see them from home. Sammamish, on the other hand, decided to scrap fireworks as well as its Fourth of July celebration.

As we get closer to July 4, which falls on a Saturday this year, more communities will be announcing their plans. The best course of action is to see what is happening locally, if anything, and then consider coming up with your own ideas for a non-traditional celebration, such as:

  • Hosting a virtual barbecue for friends and family

  • Supporting local restaurants by letting them do the cooking and deliver a feast to you

  • Preparing a menu that consists entirely of foods that are red, white or blue

  • Live-streaming fireworks if you aren’t able to see them from home

No one is thrilled about all the changes that have come about in our lives as a result of the pandemic, but the more compliant we are, the sooner things will be able to return to what only can be called a “new normal.” Remember that when holidays roll around, the most important thing is to be with family — both those who live in your home and those you wish you could see in person, but are accessible via FaceTime, Zoom and other avenues. The bottom line is to be safe this summer.

Got any innovative ideas for celebrating holidays while adhering to social distancing and other mandates to help stop the spread of the virus? Please share!

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