Independence Day (United States)

Independence Day (United States)


caption=Displays of fireworks, such as these over the Washington Monument, are an example of the celebrations that take place nationwide.
holiday_name=Independence Day
nickname=The Fourth of July
The Glorious Fourth
The Fourth
significance=The day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress
observedby=United States
date=July 4
celebrations=Fireworks, Family reunions, Concerts, Barbecues, Picnics, Parades, Baseball games
In the United States, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July (or the Fourth), is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, concerts, baseball games, political speeches and ceremonies, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States.


During the American Revolution, the legal separation from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. [Carl L. Becker, "The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas" (New York: Harcourt: 1922), 1.] After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a committee with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. [ [ Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams] , July 3, 1776, "Had a Declaration..." [electronic edition] . Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.]

Adams' prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress. [Pauline Maier, [ "Making Sense of the Fourth of July"] , "American Heritage", August 7, 1997.]

One of the most enduring myths about Independence Day is that Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. [See for example Charles Warren, "Fourth of July Myths", "The William and Mary Quarterly", Third Series, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Jul., 1945), 238–272, or HNN's [ "Top 5 Myths About the Fourth of July"] .] The myth had become so firmly established that, decades after the event and nearing the end of their lives, even the elderly Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had come to believe that they and the other delegates had signed the Declaration on the fourth. [Edward Cody Burnett, "The Continental Congress" (New York: Norton, 1941), 191–96.] Most delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2, 1776. [Becker, "Declaration of Independence", 184–85.] In a remarkable series of coincidences, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two founding fathers of the U.S., and the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence to become President of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the United States' 50th anniversary. President James Monroe died exactly five years later, on July 4, 1831, although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence.


* In 1777, thirteen guns were fired, once at morning and again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
* In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
* In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5.
* In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.
* In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held a celebration of July 4 with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled "The Psalm of Joy".
* In 1791 the first recorded use of the name "Independence Day" occurred.
* In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees. [cite web |url= |title=Independence Day Celebrations Database |accessdate=2007-06-04 |author= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |format= |work= |publisher= |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote=]
* In 1931, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday. The residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, celebrated Independence Day for the first time since July 4, 1863, when the Siege of Vicksburg ended with a Union victory during the American Civil War.


Independence Day, the only holiday that celebrates the United States, is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (like the postal service and federal courts) are closed on that day. Many politicians make it a point on this day to appear at a public event to praise the nation's heritage, laws, history, society, and people.

Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue, and take advantage of the day off and in some years, long weekend to gather with relatives. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades often are in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.

Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem ("The Star-Spangled Banner"), "God Bless America", "America the Beautiful", "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", "This Land Is Your Land", "Stars and Stripes Forever", and, regionally, "Yankee Doodle" in northeastern states and "Dixie" in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.

Firework shows are held in many states, and many fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show. Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed. Illicit traffic transfers many fireworks from less restrictive states.

A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a "salute to the union", is fired only on Independence Day at noon. [ [ Origin of the 21-Gun Salute.] U.S. Army Center of Military History.]

Major displays are held in New York on the East River, in Chicago on Lake Michigan, Boston on the Charles River, in St. Louis on the Mississippi River, and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. During the annual Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario host one of the world's largest fireworks displays, over the Detroit River, to celebrate both American Independence Day and Canada Day.

While the official observance always falls on July 4th, participation levels may vary dependent upon which day of the week the 4th falls. If the holiday falls in the middle of the week, some fireworks displays and celebrations may take place during the weekend for convenience, again, varying by region.

Annual events

* America's Freedom Festival at Provo, in Utah, is one of the largest freedom festivals. It includes one of the largest Independence Day parades, and the Stadium of Fire.Fact|date=July 2008
* Every year in the U.S.A., the Rainbow Family gather for prayer for World Peace. With attendance ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 or more participants, most refer to it as "Interdependance Day" as all live in primitive conditions by choice, in State Forests and rely upon one another for the first week of July. Participants on Independence Day pray, meditate, or are silent on the morning of Independence Day, ending in a verbal group expression, "Aum" or "Om". The Rainbow Gathering takes place annually for the first week of July.
* The Midwest's largest fireworks display, called "Red, White & Boom", happens on the last weekday before Independence Day in downtown Columbus, Ohio. An estimated crowd of 500,000 to 750,000 attend and thousands more people view the fireworks display in HD on NBC Columbus, which is synchronized to music by 97.9 WNCI.Fact|date=July 2008
* The town of Bristol, Rhode Island is noted for having the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States (since 1785).
* James River Assembly in Ozark, Missouri, hosts the annual "I Love America" Celebration at the Springfield Underground. In 1997, 13,000 people showed up for the first event. In 2006, 120,000 people attended the celebration. Highlights include the choir's "Living Flag", the "Concert in the Sky", nearly 100 games and activities, and a four-hour air show.
* A colorful Independence Day event is the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, which supposedly started on July 4, 1916 as a way to settle a dispute among four immigrants as to who was the most patriotic.
* New York City also hosts the famous Macy's Fireworks display over the East River, televised nationwide.
* In Boston, a fireworks show is held over the Charles River Esplanade with the Boston Pops playing in the background. In recent years it too is televised nationwide.
* The International Freedom Festival is jointly held in Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario during the last week of June each year, as a combined celebration of Independence Day and Canada Day (July 1). The festival culminates in a large fireworks display over the Detroit River.
* Numerous major league and minor league baseball games are played on Independence Day. Since 1959, NASCAR has held the Coke Zero 400 (formerly the "Firecracker 400") on July 4 or the Saturday of Independence Day weekend.
* On the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., a free concert, "A Capitol Fourth", precedes the fireworks and attracts over half a million people annually.
* The City of Urbandale, Iowa celebrates the biggest nationwide celebration in a location with a population less than 50,000
* Seward, Nebraska is known for its Independence Day celebration. Dating back to 1868 they have honored and celebrated Independence Day, the 2008 celebration will mark its 140th celebration.
* The annual 10 kilometer Peachtree Road Race is held in Atlanta.
* Since 1912, the Rebild Society, a Danish-American friendship organization, has held a July 4th weekend festival that serves as a homecoming for Danish-Americans in the Rebild section of Denmark. [ [ Rebild Society website] .]

See also

* United States Declaration of Independence
* Founding Fathers of the United States
* The legality of state separation through a declaration of independence.
* "1776 (musical)"
* Constitution Day (United States)


External links

* [ U.S. State Department] on Independence Day
* An extensive [ history] of Independence Day by James R. Heintze, American University, Washington, D.C.
* [ The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass]
* [ Fourth of July Spirit]

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