I don’t know what it is about the 4th of July but it’s one of my absolute favorite holidays. Maybe it’s because it’s one of just a few summer holidays that comes with a real celebration and summer nights are my favorite time to celebrate outside. Maybe it’s because it’s a day of pride, happiness and togetherness for Americans. Or maybe I never got over the magic of fireworks.
Either way, having just arrived in Galway, Ireland this past 4th of July was going to be my third in the past five years I would be spending outside of the United States. Besides wondering just how many American Independence Day’s I could spend overseas without becoming drastically less American, I was bummed.
My last two foreign 4th of Julys had occurred in the French countryside where the 4th would appear, I would remark “Hey it’s the 4th of July” and that would be it. Don’t worry, I don’t expect other countries to stop what they’re doing and make sure I celebrate a great Independence Day. I’ve always been fully aware that there are things that you give up to travel, and those things sometimes include spending holidays away from home. And I’m ok with that. The positive impact, both short and long term, of my travels has always dramatically outweighed my momentary disappointment that I was in a country on one of my favorite holidays where that holiday didn’t exist. This was something I had accepted as a fact of traveling.
Until I arrived to Galway, that is. As I was browsing the many brochures for tourist activities when I checked into my hostel I found a small piece of paper that proclaimed “4th of July party!” at a bar called The Stock Exchange. Now that sounded interesting. Later on it read “free drinks for Americans” and it appeared I may have 4th of July plans after all.
I don’t like to go to bars by myself. If there’s a bar in the hostel, sure I’ll head down and try to make some new friends. Otherwise I’d much rather go to the bar with friends. I had a couple days until the 4th and was hoping I’d be able to make some friends willing to go celebrate it with me when it arrived.
In the next couple days those friends appeared. The first roommate I met in my 8-person dorm was Linda, a teacher from Washington. Later on two students from Iowa and Oklahoma arrived and all of us far from home on a day that celebrates home were ready to go out together.
Earlier on the 4th I had seen girls walking around in USA cheerleading uniforms. “Really?” I thought. I’m all for patriotic spirit on the 4th, even when abroad but this was a little much for me. It turns out they were promoting the bar with what I kept referring to as “The America Party”. Accompanying the “cheerleaders” were guys dressed as characters from the movie Top Gun. We stopped to get a picture and headed on to The America Party.
When we arrived we all had to show ID that proved we were American and in return we received a fake American dollar to exchange for a free beer.
This was one American bar. Previously named Coyote it was now making the transition to Stock Exchange. This made for quite the interesting mix as the bar still had remnants of a western theme while beginning to add elements of Wall Street, which included a screen that read in bright, bold letters “Dow Jones”. There were license plates from dozens of American states and wallpapers of popular Manhattan landmarks.
And what an American night it was. For the only time in my more than 3 weeks in Ireland, I permitted myself to drink Budweiser in an act of American pride. Above the band there was a large American flag attached to the ceiling and lots of red, white and blue balloons. When the band began to play it was a night full of “Wagon Wheel” and “Sweet Home Alabama”. Soon everyone got up to dance.
It wasn’t just Americans who were excited for this patriotic celebration. A couple tables away from us there was a group of Irish guys wearing American football jerseys. I’m talking the kind that clearly are only supposed to be worn with the giant shoulder pads inside them. You could tell they had long been looking for an excuse to don the jerseys in public. There was not only a willingness but an enthusiasm from the Irish to celebrate the 4th with Americans and I couldn’t help but appreciate it.
And so for the first time I celebrated a purely American holiday overseas. Missing something at home doesn’t mean you miss the experience, it just means you get a new experience. There may not have been any fireworks, or backyard barbecue or old friends and family but there was a truly unique 4th of July celebration, my first red, white and blue shot at a bizarre American themed bar in Ireland and lots of new friends.
Have you celebrated any holidays overseas? How was your experience?