Exploring Vancouver: Fireworks without the Patriotism

I absolutely love fireworks. I think of it as art, writ large. Light is the paint and the sky is the canvas. It’s the purest form of joyously explosive creativity. That’s why the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays here in the US.

So when I heard of the annual Celebration of Light in Vancouver, an international fireworks competition, I thought it was the perfect time to visit my friend Martin, who lives there. The celebration is on three separate days in July, and I was only able to catch one of them, but it was very much worth it.

On the night I attended, it was Australia putting on the show from the middle of English Bay, and they did a fantastic job. I couldn’t help but compare it to the dozens of American Independence Day fireworks that I’d seen throughout the years, but there was something different here. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first.

Eventually I figured it out. This event had not one whiff of patriotism. No flags. No “Proud to Be an American” blaring out of the loudspeakers. No drunken political rants. No us vs. them. No “we are better than you are”. It was refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love my country, and I consider myself lucky for having been born here. But I’m not always proud of everything it does. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Republican National Convention, for example. Every time I thought of doing so, my stomach would ache.

And perhaps because I am an American, I believe strongly in freedom of speech and expression, so it rankles when patriotism is forced down my throat, even when I already feel it. I don’t like to be pressured by society. I can already imagine the negative responses I’m going to get just for writing this.

At the Celebration of Light on the night in question, it was estimated that 300,000 people attended. 300,000 people who were not trying to be or think a certain way. 300,000 people who had nothing to prove. They were just out to enjoy some fireworks and revel in the mild summer breezes. It was really, really good to be there, spending time with a dear friend in a relaxed atmosphere.

Incidentally, on July 3oth, it will be the USA competing in this event. I wish I could go. I’d be curious to see if they try to inject any patriotism into it. The Netherlands competed on the first night. I wonder who will win?

What follows are a few of the pictures I took at the celebration. But in case I didn’t say this while you were my gracious host, thanks, Canada. Thanks very much.

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8 thoughts on “Exploring Vancouver: Fireworks without the Patriotism

  1. Angiportus

    1 positive message here–I don’t like stuff shoved down my throat either even when I agree with it. As for fireworks, I would like them more if they were quieter.

  2. kramer

    Well, the American July 4th celebration stems from July 4th, 1776, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence and it “was” founded on a celebration of winning those rights you speak of. What we have become is a totally different thing. So for me, it’s all about the fact that people fought and died for my right to NOT listen to the RNC or the DNC. I listen to the fireworks every year, and I celebrate all my freedoms that I’m lucky enough to have.

      1. Kramer

        Well, I do too. But we are an immigrant country, which has its problems and pluses, brings us all kinds of diversity in culture, religious beliefs, and politics all under one roof, so to speak . Plus the simple fact that Canada has a population of 35 million to the U.S. population of 320 million.

        I can’t even imagine a world without my immigrant friends additions to my life, from the Jewish delis of NYC to Greek spanokapita, to the various exposure to different cultures. It’s fascinating to me and has had great influence on me.

        I guess it really boils down to a personal choice. You can choose to focus on the anger or focus on the greatness. I choose the later.

      2. Oh, I focus on the greatness, too! That’s why the 4th is one of my favorite holidays. I just also prefer to let everyone focus on whatever they choose, without trying to shame them if they don’t cover themselves in the “appropriate” level of red, white and blue.

  3. It’s similar in Japan. There are fireworks displays throughout the summer—and none of them (at least, none that I am aware of) have anything to do with “patriotism” or national pride. And the displays go on longer, so there’s more of a natural flow—versus the ones in Seattle, which end after 20–30 minutes, seemingly just as they’re getting started.

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