As one drives around neighborhoods this weekend, the haze from back yard cookouts lazily permeate the clear, summer sky. The aroma draws you in, and memories of past July 4th grilling events flood back to the forefront. (It’s amazing how this God given sense of smell holds memories as well, doesn’t it?)

Fireflies flicker, friends gather, watermelon seeds spit, and children packed like sardines on the blanket waiting in anticipation of the first explosion of fireworks.

The 4th of July holds many traditions for us Americans. It’s a holiday which represents freedom, courage and sacrifice, and yet possibly, burgers and sparklers have taken the place of its true symbolism.

Whether you celebrate July 4th or not, take this weekend to embrace the opportunity to take conversation to the next level and engage family and friends in discussion of what true courage really means. It doesn’t have to be organized, forced or stressful, just a time of intentional sharing about the deeper meaning behind this weekend’s celebrations, and why we have some of the traditions that we do.

A few years ago on the 4th of July, it started pouring as soon as we arrived at the high school stadium where the fireworks were going to be launched. Our family raced to our van and waited for the storm to pass. Instead of letting the kids moan about our wasted evening, we preempted the complaints with some soul searching discussion on our definition of courage.

We used the time by sharing examples of people who we each viewed as courageous and why. We asked them to think of one person who was still living that they feel symbolizes real life courage,  and then share one person that exemplifies this from history.

The rain never did pass, and the fireworks were cancelled, but this evening holds more memories due to the lasting impact in the hearts of our children as we shared life –  Life to its fullest, packed like sardines with all the smells you can imagine in a smooshed mini van.

This established a new tradition for our family, and an even neater idea is to chronicle the answers from your kids. Cut out paper stars. The older ones can write on their own stars and you can have the younger ones dictate their answers.

On the top of each star write, “I love my country because…” or “Courage means to me..” and then leave space for the wonderfully spontaneous answers you will collect over the years. Every year, read the past years’ answers to see how the meanings, modeling of life circumstances, and examples have changed and matured. You can use these patriotic declarations to decorate the tablecloth at your Fourth of July barbecue or collage them into your Fourth of July Album with your annual picnic photo.

Since our children are getting older, the discussions keep getting better. This year, our family is going to ponder these quotes.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” C.S. Lewis

Why don’t you join us?

Since building traditions into our family’s tapestry is a high priority, I love trying to meld the fun, with the inspirational. Check out my 4th of July section on traditions for additional ideas, but don’t forget to consider it a “go to” place for any holiday or celebration idea that you may need.

Let’s inspire each other. Do you have any special 4th of July traditions that your family does each year?

Please share your 4th of July traditions, so we can all have some new kinds of fun this weekend.

For more 4th of July ideas and tradition inspiration for this July 4th, browse my traditions category.