Growing up, we always had a fun fourth of July celebrations. When my grandparents were alive my aunt and uncle would come down and we would have burgers or steak or other red meat (we were rural and raised beef). We ate a lot of food. I had garlic bread for the first time on the fourth of July. I dipped the garlic bread in steak sauce. Every time this happens I remember the fourth of July.
As my grandparents passed on, we began inviting friends over with slip and slides and cook outs. It was a lot of fun and we played for hours. There was always a lot of watermelon to be had has well. Other sweets, like the peach pound cake from last year were often abundant. We celebrated well.
However, the event the fourth of July is known for are fireworks. My dad would go to South Carolina and buy all sorts of fireworks. There were wheels of firecrackers, fountains, sparklers, bottle rockets, smoke bombs, Saturn Missiles, party poppers, mortar rockets, and Roman Candles. As we got older we went with him and picked out some of the fireworks. Eventually, we pooled our money and bought them. Over the past few years, we’ve since stopped, but I always take the time to enjoy the fourth of July.
The smell of black powder and sulfur, the lights, the sounds, and the memories all flood back to me. I’ve even had a red wine that tasted like fireworks. The fourth of July was a time of celebration. Clearly, the point of the holiday is celebrate American Independence, but the fireworks were never tied to American Independence for me.
Fireworks are a form of celebration which disconnect themselves from the holiday. They open a zone of joy in which loud sounds, bring colors, and fire allow for a sense of wonder. We disconnect the explosive and flammable purposes of black powder from the danger and destructive tendencies and open up the darkness to a light and sound show which changes how we see.
Shooting off fireworks in your back yard isn’t distinctly rural. However, in rural communities it has a sense of magic to it. This fourth of July we saw fireworks on the mountains around us, through the trees and over houses. People can’t but share this sense of celebration. The notion of shareable celebration which suspends the purpose of explosives and dangerous materials in order to bring a bit of happiness opens up potential for rural life.
The firework show seems to fit well in rural and Christian life. Pentecost makes sense as a celebration of fire. The birth of the church, the spreading of the Spirit, and changed value of fire lend themselves to this form of reverie. Fireworks spread, they can be seen for miles, and they suspend the rules for materials.
From here, we can further our understanding of celebration. Celebration as a Christian and rural practice must suspend the rules of material and productive matters, offer up new meanings and values, and be shareable if not spreadable. For a rural community to celebrate, it must take those things present in the world and suspend their sense of value in order to offer new meaning within the world which is shareable. This may literally start with fireworks, but it can be the rethinking of old buildings, green spaces, historic events, and products.
Church rummage sales are for making money, usually, but could it not become a space of rethinking products and creating the space for making new meaning? What about the church heritage day? The empty mills which litter our rural towns? What about broken fans and making yard art just for joy?
The possibilities seem endless, and it only takes a spark to light up the night.