Independence Day Flag Ceremony

Independence Day and The Star Spangled Banner

Independence Day family traditions often include BBQs, parades, fireworks, and American Flags.

We love fireworks. Whenever possible, it is a staple of our family 4th of July traditions. One of our other favorite 4th of July traditions was an annual Ward activity. Every year on Independence Day, we would go to the church building and watch the scouts retire an old flag and raise a new flag. Then we would join each other for a pancake breakfast outside. Fortunately the weather seemed to cooperate every year and we were able to do this activity outside.

Did you realize the first stanza of the Star Spangled Banner ends in a question mark?

Take a close look and you will find that one of the most common symbols of our nation often ends with uncertainty about our nation’s future.

One time I provided a short message to accompany an independence day flag ceremony. My thoughts immediately focused on our National Anthem. The lyrics offer a great reminder of the liberty and hope the United States of America symbolizes.

The song is based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. His experience aboard a British ship in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812 inspired the words. While negotiating a prisoner release, he overheard the British plans for an attack on Baltimore. As a result, he was held on the ship until the battle was complete and he saw the attack on Fort McHenry first-hand.

The first stanza describes the things he saw during the battle that night, but then ends in a question.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Without the rockets red glare or the bombs bursting in air, Francis Scott Key did not know the outcome of the battle. Imagine the long wait until morning on an enemy ship. I doubt the British kept him informed of the situation. He waited to know if his country still stood strong in defense of the nation.

Every time we sing only the first stanza, we are left wondering the future of our nation. The second stanza begins by answering the question. I wish as a nation we sung the other stanzas more often. They fill my heart with the joy Francis Scott Key must have felt that morning and inspire hope for our nation’s future.

On the shore, dimly seen thru the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The fourth stanza offers a strong reminder of divine providence guiding the future of a faithful nation. We can be sure in the triumph of freedom in our land.

Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

You can read more about the history of the Star-Spangled Banner on Wikipedia.

What is your family tradition for Independence Day?

2 comments for “Independence Day and The Star Spangled Banner

  1. Diana Jones
    July 2, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    That is an awesome lesson about independence day and the star spangled banner! I felt emotional just sitting here reading through it. Can’t wait to share it with my family!

    • July 2, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      We are glad you liked it! Have a FANTASTIC 4th of July!

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