American Symbols: Join the largest “group sing” of the national anthem!

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series American Symbols
Smithsonian Museum of American History Raise It Up Star Spangled Banner

Click the logo to visit the Smithsonian page for the event.

Flag Day is Saturday, and this is a special Flag Day because it celebrates the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s poem that became our national anthem. Events are taking place around the country, but there’s one you can join no matter where you live: RAISE IT UP! Sponsored by the National Museum of American History in our nation’s capital, it’s the largest group sing of the national anthem in history.

Will you sing?

If you want to add your voice, mark your calendar for June 14, 2014, at 4:00 PM EDT. There are many ways to participate:

Find and join a local Anthem celebration in your community that’s registered at the RAISE IT UP! web site. (Click on the logo above.)

Host your own Anthem party. The Smithsonian even provides recipes for making Star-Spangled treats and desserts.  And, the Smithsonian store offers Star-Spangled Banner products, including T-shirts, tote bags, pint glasses, coffee mugs, and more.

If you’re in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., you can join the national sing-along at the American History Museum (National Mall between 12th and 14th Streets). If you arrive by 2:30 PM EDT on June 14th, you can enjoy a free concert, featuring guitarist Kristen Capolino, the U. S. Air Force Concert Band, a 400-person choir, and the “Singing Sergeants”—the official chorus of the U.S. Air Force.

If you can’t get to the National Mall, the concert will be live webcast starting at 2:30 PM EDT, also shown later that evening on the Smithsonian Channel.

Do you have a reason to not participate in the celebration of our flag and national anthem?

Will you participate?

Or, is this Saturday simply another day on the calendar?

American Symbols: Why is THIS Flag Day so special?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series American Symbols
American flag on the Moon from United America gallery

INSPIRED by this classic photo? CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to check out Dr. Wayne Baker’s Gallery of American Images, part of the “United America” project.

Flag Day is this Saturday, June 14. It’s an annual celebration of the day the American flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

Today, I hope you’ll think about this question: What makes this Flag Day so special?

The American flag and the national anthem are both potent symbols. Together, they represent what’s called “symbolic patriotism”—an emotional attachment to country expressed through love of American symbols. Symbolic patriotism is one of the 10 core values I document in United America.

Foreign observers are always amazed at the near-reverence with which Americans embrace their symbols. But if you are American, you understand completely. Seeing the flag fly or hearing the national anthem makes just about any American feel good.

Hearing the anthem this year should make you feel especially good because it marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of what became our national anthem. On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key espied the “broad stripes and bright stars” at the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. It inspired him to write the poem that became our national anthem.

Almost any American can sing the first stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner, though the range of the song makes it difficult for many.

Did you know that the way it is sung now is quite different from the way it was sung in Key’s day?

Care to know how it was originally sung? University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague, an authority on Key and the Star-Spangled Banner, arranged to reproduce the original tune. You can hear how it was sung in Key’s day in the video clip below. Listen—and tell us what you think!

Mark Clague’s web site—Star Spangled Music—is a treasure trove of facts, history, recordings, and more—all about the 1814 event that figures so prominently in the American consciousness.

What does the national anthem mean to you?

Do you like—or dislike—the say the tune was sung in Key’s day?

Do you care about Flag Day?

Christmas: Where have all the carolers gone?

Army Navy and other military Christmas Carolers

WHO LOVES CAROLING? It’s a long military tradition for men and women serving far from home. These photos, from various years, show (from TOP): U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Joseph Scordo of Pleasantville, NY, leading Christmas carolers in celebrating the holiday season at a forward operating base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Second, sailors assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Curtis singing in an annual decorating contest to show holiday spirit. Third, sailors singing carols on the flight deck of the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey. Then, sailors and marines joining in carols aboard the U.S. Navy command and control ship USS Mount Whitney. Finally, a scene of a World War I caroler from the film, Joyeux Noel, about the 1914 Christmas Truce. All military photos are released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Nine of ten Americans celebrate Christmas, but how we celebrate has changed over the years. If you celebrate Christmas, think back to your childhood: What did you typically do then? Have things changed or stayed the same?

Across the board, the activities typically associated with Christmas—putting up a Christmas tree, buying gifts for friends or family, sending cards, attending religious services, caroling, and more—have declined in frequency, according to a Pew Research Center poll this month. About eight of ten (79%) put up a Christmas tree this year, but 92% recalled doing the same when they were young. Sending cards has fallen, too. Now, 65% of Americans send cards, compared to 81% in their youth.

Just over half of all Americans (54%) say they plan to attend religious services tonight or tomorrow; about seven of ten (69%) said they typically did this as a child. This decline occurs for men and women, for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, for all age groups, and all religious groups except white evangelical Protestants.

Buying gifts for family and friends has also declined, but the decline is small for most demographic groups and categories. No change has occurred for Americans with family incomes of $50,000 a year or more. When it comes to homemade gifts, however, the drop is much larger. For example, 58% of Americans plan to give homemade gifts today or tomorrow, compared with 66% who recall doing the same when they were kids. This decline occurs for all demographic groups and categories, including white evangelical Protestants.


Caroling has fallen off dramatically. Only 16% plan to go caroling tonight or tomorrow. Over a third of Americans (36%) recall caroling when they were kids.

You know who still loves caroling every year? Men and women serving in the U.S. military, that’s who! Every year at military bases and on ships at sea, all around the world, men and women sing Christmas songs. Pew’s sample wasn’t designed to poll service men and women, so we don’t have any hard data on this detail—except the annual stream of caroling photos that we see circulating across the Internet.

Caroling among the military is one way, in situations where no other holiday expressions are practical, to remember home. It’s been that way for a long time. Next year, 2014, will be the centennial of the now-famous World War I Christmas Truce in 1914, celebrated in a number of feature films, including Joyeux NoelThe sound of Christmas carols in the trenches, heard across “no man’s land,” was a key inspiration for that rare moment of peace amid a terrible war.

What are your holiday activities this season?

Do  you have a friend or relative in the military? Are they singing, or listening to, carols this week?