• German trench

There are holidays we celebrate and more modest holidays we observe, and the former are surrendering their dignity to the latter.

Thanksgiving has become my favorite day of the year. It is not only more of a family day than Christmas, it has become a more reverent day. Americans are lucky—divinely lucky, some would say—and on Thanksgiving we think about that and address it. On Christmas I’m not sure what we’re thinking of, though we thank God the shopping’s over.

On the Fourth of July we set off fireworks. We whoop, holler, and we lie in the grass and listen to Tchaikovsky. But on Memorial Day we visit graves. Whatever independence is, it came at a price, and on Memorial Day we think about that price. What are fireworks against a line of seven old campaigners lifting their rifles high and firing three volleys into the air, followed by an uncertain high school trumpeter offering Taps?