Connect to share and comment

Fourth of July, British style

Americans in the United Kingdom long for far-away holiday traditions.

LONDON — There was supposed to be a barbecue.

Back “home,” beef patties sizzled and charcoal smoked in whatever direction people were sitting. But with the Royal Parks’ ban on barbecues, American students abroad Julia Conley and Denise Bennett had to find some other way to celebrate Independence Day.

“Denise made hot dogs” in their Kensington flat, Conley said. “It was a nice piece of home.”

As Americans spread out picnic blankets and watched fireworks back in the United States, Americans in the United Kingdom found other ways to celebrate Independence Day, ironically, in the country from which they gained, well, their independence.

The U.S. Embassy in London estimates that about 250,000 Americans permanently reside in the United Kingdom at the moment, with more than 4 million Americans visiting or staying in the United Kingdom temporarily each year. That's half the population of New York City, or the equivalent population of Los Angeles.

Lynne Sayer, chairman of the American Society in London, an organization for Americans living permanently in the United Kingdom, has been a permanent resident of the United Kingdom since 1986. Although she can often find the American comforts of home in the United Kingdom, Sayer said she gets homesick on the Fourth of July.

“There you are, the Fourth of July, everybody at home is off at the lakes, barbecuing,” she said. “You really get homesick.”

Bennett, the student, said she’d spent all of her previous Independence Days with her family. This Fourth of July was “out of sorts.”

“The big difference is being in the States, you know everyone is celebrating on the same day,” she said. “Even here, being in the park, there may be Americans coming out here, but you don’t know who’s who. On the Fourth in the States, you feel some solidarity in that no matter where you go, everyone is American and everyone is celebrating the Fourth.”

The American Society in London usually holds a Fourth of July celebration with the American ambassador, but without an ambassador named yet by the Obama administration, it decided to hold off this year, Sayer said.

Last year’s celebration took place in the House of Lords, Sayer said.

“We got a big kick out of it,” Sayer said with a laugh. “There we were, celebrating our independence in a place where there were a million debates about the Revolutionary War raised from that spot.”

Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of Revolutionary War hero and America’s first president George Washington, has hosted a Fourth of July celebration for the past five years. This year’s two-day celebration involved performances by the Princeton University Tigertones, Appalachian dancers and “Punch and Judy,” a traditional English puppet show. The puppeteer for this year’s Punch and Judy introduced a President Barack Obama character to this year’s show.