We look forward to celebrating our nation's birthday every year.  Everyone celebrates in their own way, but there are a few things I think we can all agree on that are just not good ideas.  Allow me to enlighten you.

To celebrate the 4th of July, you'll need a few things: a grill, maybe a few cold ones, an unobstructed view of fireworks, a flag flying high and you're good to go.  However, it's been my experience that there are just some things that should be avoided at Independence Day celebrations.  

Top Three Things NOT to do on the 4th of July:
1. Do NOT burn the BBQ food- Let's face it, half of what makes any 4th of July celebration successful is the food.  Too often have I been to bbqs where the food was far too cajun for my taste.  Bad food, or just having the wrong TYPES of food for an Independence Day bbq, ends in disaster.  I went to a bbq in Jersey a couple years ago and the hosts' "bbq" consisted of  mushroom caps, veggies, and turkey burgers sans salt, ketchup, and beer!  A lonely bag of cold, uncooked hot-dogs sat unnoticed at the bottom of the cooler and I did all I could not to stand in a corner crying.  I finally ended up at a Fat Burger just to get my damn hot dog; such a pathetic sight.  It had to be the most unpatriotic 4th of July meal I'd ever experienced, and I vowed that it would never happen to me again.  Burned or a hot-dog/hamburgerless 4th of July bbqs insult America - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
2. Let PROFESSIONALS handle the fireworks - The last thing you need to do on a holiday is head to an emergency room with 3rd degree burns or missing a hand because you decided setting off a few fire-bombs didn't require any special training.  How many videos of people having fireworks launched directly into their faces are littering the internet at this very moment?  I'm sure dozens will be set to go viral as well after this year's celebration.  Take a lesson from these poor sods and you can completely avoid ruining your holiday weekend.  Leave it to the ones with the degrees in science and other fancy things to put on the show.
3. DO NOT TRASH TALK AMERICA - Yes, we live in a country that grants us freedom of speech and there are those out there who think our bark is worse than our bite but keep it to yourself.  Personally, I like to think that I'm patriotic, but not in that threatening "our country is better than your country" way.  However, there's one day of the year where I believe that any talk that diminshies this great nation of ours should be grounds for tossing you in jail and throwing out the key; obviously, that day is the 4th of July.  So if you have a problem with a corrupt government or think all politicians are crooks, I'm not inclined to disagree with you, but save it until July 5th and get back to appreciating a country that gives you the freedom and opportunity to be vocal about what you think is wrong in the world.

Top Three Things You ABSOLUTELY should do on the 4th of July:
1. Light a sparkler*note I did not say light fireworks; there is a difference* - Setting off your own firewords display is not only stupid, but also illegal in NY.  I'm not exactly sure what the policy is on sparklers, but all I do know is that it has been a family tradition I still look forward to each year.  Lighting one up, twirling around, and watching the sparks fly just brings the kid in me out to play, and is probably one of the best parts of my childhood that I remember and hope to continue for a long time.  If it turns out that even sparklers are illegal, just light one and stick it in a cake or a cocktail (chain restaurants do it all the time).
2. Take at least one turn on a slip-n-slide - Ok, this one might be a bit weird, but it's another activity that I associate with good times and the 4th.  Summer hasn't officially begun until I'm soaked and have fresh-cut grass sticking to my ankles from running back to the head of the line.  It's even better when people get together on the 4th of July and that crazy uncle only gets halfway down the slide.  Reach for a sparkler and a hot dog later and things are right with the world.
3. Celebrate America - Fly the colors, sing the anthem, watch the fireworks, and be grateful we live in a country that offers us more freedoms than any other in the world.  The 4th of July exists for a reason; respect it and never forget it.

Happy 4th, America!