The Fourth of July is Independence Day in the USA, a federal holiday that, according to USA.gov, celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of the Independence on July 4, 1776 – splitting the USA from Britain officially.
Although it’s a single day, it marks a week of slow down for those who work in the US, which is important to note if you work with people there.
There’s a great history to the date on Wikipedia. From it you’ll note that historically the date for celebration is disputed: the actual Resolution of Independence was passed by the Continental Congress on 2nd July. John Adams – the US’ second President, and a founding father of what is currently the USA – felt the second should be the day to celebrate. (Somewhat ironically, he died on July 4.) The formal Declaration of Independence was signed on 4th July, so that was picked for the national holiday – but many historians argue that it wasn’t actually signed until a month later.
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the date, this year the national holiday date is officially Thursday 4 July, 2013. Many of our US based friends, associates and colleagues are taking either the full week, or from July 3 to the end of the week, as holiday. (Yours may be too – it’s always worth asking.)
So how will they celebrate? It’s a national day, and there is much pomp and ceremony at a State level. For others, 4th July bonfires are still common on the East Coast. (Speak to consultant Tim Mitchell if you want the inside story on where you get the best fireworks!) Barbeques, parades and general partying, along with time for family mark the celebration. When I asked American friends and colleagues for information, reactions ranged from huge enthusiasm for the celebration to ‘best just stay out of town’ – about what you’d expect for a major national celebration anywhere.
Apparently many retailers are now extending their ‘Black Friday’ type sales – traditionally held after Thanksgiving – to follow Independence Day, offering celebrants another reason to extend their holiday.
The Phillipines also hold its National day on 4th July (that being the date on which the USA granted them independence in 1946, having occupied the country since 1898).
In the context of the workplace, our often repeated advice is to ask if you are unsure about a remote colleagues holiday plans and what they’ll be doing: it’s hard to think of many occasions that people would be offended by you asking if they are taking time off to celebrate a national holiday. It’s easy to forget when we are in one place, and those around us automatically know that it’s a national holiday, that the people we work with in other places may not have the same understanding. Of course, the ‘flip side of the coin’ is that if we are about to celebrate a national holiday, it’s good practise to let everyone know we’ll be away from our desks, and for how long.
Apart from anything else, when you work virtually, much communication is electronic – and unresponded to ‘urgent’ emails or suddenly imposed deadlines can often cause offence. You may return to chaos if those around you are expecting you to deliver something of which you are blissfully unaware.