WASHINGTON – This Fourth of July, the beer you drink and the hot dogs you sear are most likely American — but the Stars and Stripes you wave could well be from Taiwan, and the fireworks you explode almost certainly are from China.
Figures from the Census Bureau and private organizations show how this most American of holidays has not escaped the global embrace.
Want to cool down with a beer? According to the Beer Institute, July 4 is by far the most popular holiday to do so — 7.5 percent of overall American consumption takes place on the national holiday. (Next is Memorial Day, with 6.8 percent, in case you were wondering.)
Likelier than not, you'll be drinking American — imported beer accounted for just 20 million barrels of beer consumed in 2000, as opposed to 198 million barrels of domestic.
But the Beer Institute worriedly notes that the trend is against domestic brands — compared to 1999 numbers, consumption of U.S. brews rose just 0.6 percent, while foreign brands shot up 12.4 percent.
Maybe that's why breweries are doing their best this year to paint beer in American colors: Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin did their best work in taverns, according to a Beer Institute release.
"Celebrate America's holidays the way the men who started them did," is the institute's slightly anxious slogan.
By contrast, the U.S. meat industry can breathe easy — the feared madness of British cows is helping keep barbecues American.
Department of Agriculture figures show that less than 10 percent of beef consumed in the United States is imported.
The same goes for pork. Hot dogs are increasingly the meat of choice — American Meat Institute figures show a 7.8 percent increase in hot dog sales at food courts in 2000, and a whopping 43 percent decrease in hamburger sales.
Beyond the eating and drinking, making merry also has taken on international hues. The vast majority of fireworks are made in China, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1997, $85 million of the $93 million spent on imported fireworks went to Chinese makers; only $21 million was spent on U.S.-made fireworks.
While China corners the rockets' red glare, its renegade island province is making inroads into the broad stripes and bright stars.
The Census Bureau says that Taiwanese manufacturers sold more than half of the 2 million U.S. flags imported in 2000. (There are no figures for sales of U.S.-made Stars and Stripes; the Census' domestic manufacturing division lists all flag and banner sales as a single item.)
One way to make the holiday as American as possible is to remind yourself why it's being celebrated, and the Census Bureau obligingly lists 46 places where it would be hard to forget: 30 named Liberty, 11 called Independence, five named Freedom.
There are other less tangible satisfactions, according to some celebrants.
Eliav Decter is skipping the big league fireworks in Philadelphia, where he lives, for the tiny parade staged in his hometown of Haddonfield, N.J. He expects to see some boyhood pals there as well.
"It's just a couple of floats, and kids on bicycles," said Decter, 26. But while traveling abroad in recent years, he found himself thinking of his hometown on July Fourth — and something he said is uniquely American.
"It's the sense of community I miss, people getting together and solving problems," Decter said.