6 Jul 2010

Patriot

With the summer heat, another staple of the season has returned: Patriotic festivities. While I have taken advantage of the first one, Québec's grandly called fête nationale, to extend my trip to Switzerland by a public holiday, I have returned in time for the next batch. July 1st is Canada Day, celebrated from sea to sea with a rare outburst of true Canadian National Pride. This year, it featured even more pomp and circumstance, for the country's true Head of State (an elderly lady of German descent who lives in a castle across the ocean) was in town. Somewhat surprisingly, TV commentators still called her a "visitor". Well, this visitor has certainly left plenty of traces - on coins and stamps, for instance.

Québec, of course, has its own way of using July 1st, as I have noticed last year. But since I did not have to move this year, and was spared from moving other people's boxes around, I could take it easy. After a relaxing day with swimming, reading and ice cream, I met up with my most reliably federalist friends for dinner, which turned out to be so engaging and enduring that we never even made it to the Old Port for the (low-key, federally funded) fireworks.

Not that I felt like having missed much, for I knew that I was in for another healthy - and entirely unconditional - dose of patriotism very soon. The next night, I headed across the border (for the first time, without a stamp, form or fee!) to Vermont. And while that place admittedly is not Texas, there was no doubt that its residents were gearing up for a celebration of their own (they are just 3 days late, as Canadians like to say...). Saturday beckoned with blue skies and still bearable tempeartures, and so I hiked the state's highest peak, at a majestic 1340m, before joining my friends in downtown Burlington for the Independence Day fireworks.

True to its practical and unpretentious reputation, the city had scheduled the lakefront activites, with jugglers, air acrobatics, free music and plenty of street-side food stalls, for the Saturday night, so that people would be able to recover on Sunday. And I had thought that they wanted to celebrate on July 3rd because their country would be attacked by aliens the next day! Turns out the little green men did not strike after all. They were most likely discouraged by an impressive 40min display of firepower, beautifully synchronized to patriotic themes over Lake Champlain. As always, no shame or modesty south of the border!

Driving back home on Sunday, I chose a scenic route to a tiny border crossing, in a successful attempt to avoid the crowds of Canadians returning from what was, for them, a four day weekend. Unfortunately, I had not counted on another Independence Day tradition, typical for small town America: Village parades! To an enthusiastic and flag-waving audience of villagers sitting in their front yards drinking beer, the local array of tractors, fire engines and old cars, ideally sporting young beauties, parade by - with the rest of traffic obviously standing still (flashy red rental cars with Canadian plates are not allowed to take part).

When I finally made it back home, I felt throughly patriotic, albeit a bit confused about allegiances. That feeling was quickly corrected when I emptied my mailbox: Waiting for me was the Consulate General's official invitation to this years's 1. Augustfeier. I'll be a patriot once again!

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