Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Independence Day USA (with a dash of global perspective)

 Back from Philadelphia this week, “the birthplace of our nation,” with a little Independence Day   report. 

My favorite part of the celebration? The late morning parade in historic district.

It started with the expected police cruisers and motorcycles showing off their red-white-and blue lights’ blinking and sirens’ friendly wailing. The typical 1770s ladies and gents waved to us as they passed us by. The Philadelphia mayor was there, too, and Miss New Jersey and Miss Delaware and the Philadelphia string band, of course.

But what surprised me was the strings and strings of dancers and musicians representing other parts of the world.

There were golden masks and Chinese ladies in atlas costumes, Bolivian dancers, Vietnamese veterans of the Vietnam War marching in their uniforms, looking straight ahead, as the people on the curb clapped and cheered them on. Their old grim faces were a part of me, I realized, as much as the green and gold scary masks I had never seen before, or the Chinese ladies measuring their steps in neat white sneakers. 

 Standing on the curb with my family, enjoying the little bit of shade in the beginning of the day, and the heart-warming spectacle before my eyes, I thought back to the “independence day” of my childhood.


We had parades too, but they were decorated with one principal color – red. Red balloons, red flags, red carnations, pioneer scarves, red little ribbons on the lapel. Instead of the July heat, the independence day of my childhood carried the hint of cold – signaling that the winter was not too far behind.

 The independence day I grew up with commemorated the day of a revolution, too, when in 1917 the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg (later to be re-named Leningrad, then back to its original name), and Russia became a socialist republic.

 We celebrated with a big city parade, too. It was a day off work and no school, and grownups marched with their co-workers, kids tugging along happily. Of course, coming back home, everyone watched the big Kremlin parade in Moscow, all the reds but black-and gray shadows on old Soviet TVs. The last parade was in 1990, before the failed communist coup in the august of 1991 put an official end to the Communist party and any official celebrations of socialism.


 I wonder why Russia didn’t make a grand occasion out of celebrating the anniversary of that event, that rare event when the true spirit of freedom and democracy took hold of the nation, and people young and old took to the streets to cry out, enough pathetic communist lies, comrades!


The French have their July 14th, Bastille Day, la Fete Nationale, celebrating the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison. Ireland has its famous Saint Patrick to thank for a festive national holiday celebrated all around the world. Mexico will celebrate 200 years of independence from Spain on September 16th of this year (and no, their main national holiday it isn’t Cinco De Mayo as Americans often assume). http://www.mexonline.com/mexican-independence.htm 

The once Soviet Republic of Lithuania celebrates its independence from the forced “sisterhood” with the Soviet “sister-Republics” on February 16th.

By celebrating an independence day or a “national day,” each country stakes its own claim to history, its own version of the great story of humanity.

Personally, I was happy to celebrate our story in this particular corner of the world, and with this many colors!


July 7, 2010 - Posted by | Contemporary History


  1. Those are great pictures. And the diversity of that parade is in contrast to all the “red” found in the Soviet independence day.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | July 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for picking up on my symbolism, Medeia! I also just always love the diversity of the people in places such as Philly . . . I think for the me the parade was a metaphor for that, too!! 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. It sounds like a great day. And thanks for giving us that global perspective. 🙂

    Comment by nan marino | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. Just a dash, Nan! 😉

    Comment by Katia Raina | July 9, 2010 | Reply

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