Rhode Island is a state that is very emphatic about getting Mondays off for Federal and state holidays. When I first moved here, I was shocked to get out of school for Columbus Day (which we never got in Minnesota or North Dakota), and even more flummoxed when I realized that this is the only state that still celebrates VJ Day–now called “Victory Day”.
When I asked a native Rhode Islander about this, she just looked at me blankly and said, “Why would we voluntarily give up a Monday off? We get one Monday off per month for holidays like this, and I’m certainly not going to say we shouldn’t just because it’s a bit insensitive. We don’t call it Victory over Japan Day anymore, so what’s the harm?” I can get on board with that, I guess, I like days off. Plus, when Jewish Friend was working for Brown University over the summer, she told me that their answering machine message for why they’re closed on that day is hilarious in its non-specificity.
Likewise, this year the 4th of July falls on a Sunday, so all 4th of July festivities are postponed until the 5th in order for all of us to get a day off work. George M. Cohan plaza, just a few blocks from my house, has a banner proudly stating that there are 4th of July festivities July 3, & 5-6. July 4th is now just a blank day in the middle of these other July 4th celebrations which are not taking place on the 4th. America’s oldest 4th of July parade, in Bristol, RI, is also taking place on the 5th, which people have started calling the 4th, which is terribly confusing, as you can imagine.
I spoke to my brother on the phone last night, and asked what he was doing for the holiday.
“The parents are coming up for the 4th.” he said.
“Does your town do a big 4th of July celebration?” I asked.
“Well, they do, but it all happened today, so I have no idea what they’re expecting when they show up. I read the list of all the stuff going on this morning, and it was impressive, but I had to work. There’s nothing really happening on the actual 4th.”
Part of me assumed that the combination of a heavily Catholic state and a love of Mondays off is what brought the 4th of July to the 5th, but Minnesota, where little brother lives, is not a very Catholic state, and Lutherans are far less tenacious in their church-going. So there’s that theory dashed against the rocks. Though it looks like Minnesota may not be getting July 5th off…correct me if I’m wrong.
Rhode Island also recently revamped its laws concerning what kind of fireworks can be bought and used in the state, so things have been all the more boisterous and explodey because of that, making it feel like it’s been the 4th for about two days already. Basically, it’s the 4th of July right now, and if it wasn’t for a friend’s wedding tonight, I would have nothing going on today. The fireworks in the park by my house were last night, there may be more on the 5th, who knows?
Am I meant to treat today as a day of reprieve before the revelry re-starts tomorrow? It’s baffling.