The 4th of July, often referred to as Independence Day or July 4th (Fourth of July), has been a government holiday in the U.S. since the year 1941, but commemorations of the American Revolution dates back to the 18th century. The Continental Congress voted in favor of independence on July 2, 1776, and a couple of days later, representatives from the thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, a historically vital document written by Thomas Jefferson. Since 1776. July 4th has been celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of America, with festivities ranging from parades, fireworks, concerts, and displays and to more informal family barbecues and gatherings. In 2021, the 4th of July will be celebrated on a Sunday, with the federal holiday being on Monday, July 5th.
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The History of Independence Day United States
When the War began in the year April 1775, some Americans wanted complete and total independence from Britain, and those who wanted that were labelled radicals.
The next year, many more colonies embraced independence thanks to increasing anti-British sentiment and the propagation of revolutionary principles like those mentioned in Thomas Paine’s blockbuster pamphlet “Common Sense,” published at the beginning of 1776.
At the Continental Congress convention on June 7 at the State House in Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the delegate from Virginia Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that was a call for the colonies’ independence.
Despite heated arguments and debate, Congress prolonged their vote on Lee’s resolution and instead appointed a 5-man committee to draft a formal statement and justifying the separation from the rule of Great Britain. The committee included Massachusetts’ John Adams, Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin, Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, and New York’s Robert Livingston.
On the 2nd of July, the Continental Congress, almost unanimously, voted in favour of Lee’s demand for independence (the delegation from New York abstained but later voted in favour of the demand). On the same day, John Adams wrote a letter addressing his wife Abigail, saying that the 2nd of July will be remembered as the grand anniversary festival by future generations, with “Parade and Pomp… Guns, Games, Sports, Bonfires, Illuminations, and Bells from one corner of our Continent to the other.”
On July 4th, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was formally ratified by the Continental Congress. Despite the fact that the actual vote for independence happened on the 2nd of July, the 4th of July has become a national holiday in the United States.
Celebrations on Fourth of July – Early Years
Colonists held the annual celebrations on the king’s birthday in the years leading up to the Revolution, including bonfires, bell ringing, speeches, and processions. However, in the summer of 1776, few colonists came together. They celebrated the birth of freedom by arranging King George the third’s fictitious funerals, symbolising the monarchy’s loss of power over the United States of America and the triumph of liberty.
The Declaration of Independence’s first public readings, which began shortly after its passage, were sometimes followed by bonfires, parades, concerts, and the firing of muskets and cannons. On July 4th, 1777, although Congress was preoccupied with the war, Philadelphia held its first annual anniversary of freedom.
George Washington gave all of his soldiers double the rations of rum to honour the celebration of freedom in 1778. The first state to declare July 4th as an official state holiday in 1781 was Massachusetts, just months before the vital American victory at the Battle of Yorktown.
Fireworks on the 4th of July
The earliest fireworks and pyro-exhibitions were used as early as 200 BC. The traditional lighting fireworks began on July 4, 1777, with the first scheduled Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia. The ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute to commemorate the honour of the thirteen colonies. “A beautiful show of fireworks (which began and ended with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was wonderfully illuminated,” according to the Pennsylvania Evening Post. The Sons of Liberty blasted fireworks over Boston Common on the same night.
The 4th of July is designated as a government/federal holiday
Following the 1812 Revolutionary War, in which the U.S. faced Great Britain once more, the practice of patriotic celebration became even more common. The United States Congress declared July 4th a federal holiday in 1870, and in 1941, it was expanded to include all federal employees.
Although the festival’s political significance waned over time, it remained a significant national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.
Since the late nineteenth century, the 4th of July, which falls in the middle of summer, has been a significant focus of fun activities and an occasion for family get-togethers, complete with outdoor barbecues and fireworks. The Flag of America is the most visible symbol, and the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is a popular musical accompaniment.
Fun Facts – The 4th of July
- The Continental Congress technically accepted the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, but most signatories did not sign it until the month of August.
- On July 4, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that over 150 million sausages and hot dogs will be consumed in the United States, enough to extend from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles five times.
- John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe were the three presidents that passed away on July 4th.
- According to John Adams, the anniversary of American freedom should be held on July 2, the day on which the Continental Congress chose for independence in 1776.
- Throughout his life, Adams is said to have declined invitations to the 4th of July celebrations, incensed that the holiday was not commemorated on July 2.
- The first state to declare the Fourth of July a public holiday in the year 1781 was Massachusetts.
- President Zachary Taylor passed away in the year 1850 after consuming bad fruit at a picnic held on July 4th.
- The iconic Macy’s fireworks display in the city of New York, which costs over $6 million and uses over seventy-five thousand fireworks shells, is one of the most expensive in the world.
- Every year, on July 4th, the Nathan’s Famous and Renowned Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place. In just 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, the 2018 champion, ate about 74 hot dogs.
- Independence Day was designated as a government holiday in the year 1870.
- George Washington offered his soldiers a double ration of rum to honor the July 4th celebration in the year 1778.
- On July 4th, descendants of the original signatories of the Declaration of Independence ring the Liberty Bell 13 times in honour of the original formed 13 colonies.
- In a small town in the United States, a fireworks display costs between 8 thousand dollars and 15 thousand dollars.
- President Calvin Coolidge’s birthday fell on July 4, 1872.
- According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, around 16,000 fireworks displays are held on July 4th each year across the United States.
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