Saturday, July 11, 2009

Not your usual 4th of July

The program began just shortly after we arrived at the wooded park and I thrilled to see the stars and stripes. As they played the Star Spangled Banner, I placed my hand over my heart and, with tears in my eyes, sang. I expected to be joined in the singing, but was not! I didn't hear another voice. After the band finished playing (it was the Latvian Military Band), I realized that all the voices around me (and throughout the park) were speaking Latvian. I talked with the wife of one of the employees (they are members of the Church) who told me that Embassy employees (60 are Latvian) and their families, as well as Embassy contacts and other invited guests were there.
So, it was not the celebration I had looked forward to. The Marines (there were only 4) were the flag bearers and then they sold T-shirts for 15LS ($30 USD). There were tents throughout the area, with free food at each: McDonald's hamburgers, pizza (Latvian-style), hot dogs, bags of caramel corn, slices of watermelon and water and beer (several tents serving beer).
The Latvian Military Band played a lot of American music, but not patriotic songs. I had hoped for patriotic music, and the opportunity to visit with Americans--tourists, employees working in Latvia, etc.
We were given an American flag toward the end and I am thankful for that. Elder and Sister Carson had driven us to the park and when they dropped us off outside of our apartment, I was holding the flag and a young adult-aged man said "American"--I smiled--and he added an obscenity. I wished I had had presence of mind enough to ask him what he knows about America or something. It caught me so off-guard that I just walked on by, sad that someone felt the need to say something disparaging about America--and to an old woman, yet!
I did find out why the celebration/picnic was held on the 5th, rather than the 4th. Some years ago in Riga, on July 4, a terrible massacre of Jews occurred. They were hiding in the basement of a church and it was set on fire. On the 4th of July in Riga each year, the Latvian flag is flown with a black ribbon tied at the top of the pole. The Embassy respects that, therefore, celebrates the 4th on the 5th.
Latvia has had so many tragedies and they observe anniversaries by flying the flag, with a black ribbon tied to the pole.

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