Independence Day in the USA: How you can celebrate and honor American history
What is Independence Day?
History of Independence Day in the USA
The history of US independence stems from the events of the Revolutionary War, a conflict in which the American colonists fought for their desire to be an independent nation. The events that took place between 1775 and 1783 marked American and world history forever.
Though the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, independence was not guaranteed until much later. Tensions between colonists and the British Empire rose in the years before the Revolutionary War, as the Crown attempted to assert more control over colonial affairs when they had largely operated independently in the decades prior. War broke out on April 19, 1775, after the legendary ride of Paul Revere, and continued until September 3, 1783, when the British surrendered after the Battle of Yorktown. What started as a civil war between the colonies and Britain eventually grew to include France, Spain, and even the Netherlands. The United States’ victory over Britain then paved the way for modern democracy around the world.
July 2, 1776, was the day that the Second Continental Congress voted unanimously to break from the British Empire. The Declaration of Independence did not become official until one month later, on August 4, 1776, after the majority of congressional delegates had signed it. So, why do we celebrate on the 4th of July? Because that was the date printed on Declaration of Independence, when the ideas that would shape the United States were agreed upon and put down on paper.
But celebrating Independence Day didn’t actually become common until after the War of 1812! In the early years, celebrations for the 4th of July were more serious, often with parades and speeches. The holiday was used to commemorate the groundbreaking of the Erie Canal in 1817 and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1828. Over the years the celebrations only grew, and Independence Day quickly became the most celebrated secular holiday in the United States! On June 28, 1870, nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence was written, Congress marked July 4th as a federal holiday, securing its place in the American calendar forever.
How to celebrate Independence DayModern celebrations of Independence Day run the gambit from backyard barbeques to large-scale parades and fireworks displays! If you’re looking for some inspiration on how you can celebrate this year, we have several ideas:
- Dress in the colors of the US flag: Red, White, and Blue!
- Hang a US flag outside your home
- Set off fireworks or sparklers – but make sure to check whether this is legal in your city first!
- Attend a professional fireworks display
- Watch or participate in a local parade
- Visit your local Revolutionary War museum or memorial
- Or just grill up some hotdogs and hamburgers with your friends and family!
Celebrations Around the Country
Though the 4th of July is the most-celebrated secular holiday in the USA, some cities have forged their own special traditions to mark the occasion. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Philadelphia’s Fourth of July Festival
- The city where the Declaration of Independence was signed holds an annual festival for the 4th of July! From free visitation days at many museums, to the Philly POPS Symphony’s annual performance, to hearing the Declaration of Independence read aloud in front of Independence Hall, there are so many ways to celebrate in Philadelphia! And the entire festival culminates in a free concert on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, followed by a fireworks display! (link)
- Macy’s Fireworks Show in New York City
- Every year Macy’s holds one of the biggest fireworks displays in the world, with more than 48,000 shells set off over the East River in Midtown. The size and location of this show means that you can get a good view from many places in the city – and it’s free to watch! (link)
- Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island
- Another famous New York tradition, the eating contest became popular in the 1990’s and is now televised to more than 1.5 million viewers annually. (link)
- Key Lime Festival on Key West
- Florida takes a tropical spin on the 4th of July with a key-lime themed series of events on Key West, including a pie-drop competition, pie-eating contest, rum tastings, and a pool party! (link)
- Parade of Boats at Murrells Inlet
- Murrells Inlet, South Carolina hosts an annual boat parade where decorated vessels will travel down the waterway. Viewers can watch from festive piers, and enjoy a fireworks show over the water too! (link)
- Independence Day in Washington, D.C
- Visitors to Washington D.C around the 4th of July can watch fireworks against the backdrop of the city’s many monuments, catch the Washington Nationals baseball game, or sign a replica of the Declaration of Independence with re-enactors like George Washington at the National Archive! (link)
In 1776, John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second President of the United States, wrote to his wife that July 4th, “Ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” However you choose to spend Independence Day, make sure you take a moment to reflect on the history of the day, and then celebrate as the Founding Fathers always hoped you would!
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