Happy Independence Day, America!
Discover the essence of Independence Day on the Fourth of July, a crucial American holiday. Reflect on the founders’ vision for this day and explore what makes America’s celebration of freedom truly exceptional.
When Is Independence Day This Year?
The United States commemorates the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July, a federal holiday. When the date falls on a Sunday, the observed holiday is moved to Monday, July 5. Similarly, if the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, most federal employees observe the holiday on Friday, July 3 (although some exceptions may apply).
A Brief History of Independence Day
When we think of July 4, 1776, it’s often associated with the Declaration of Independence, America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom, and the document that laid the foundation for the nation’s core principles. However, interestingly, July 4 wasn’t the day when independence was declared, nor was it the day when the Declaration was officially signed.
So, what exactly transpired on July 4, 1776? This date signifies the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies. It was on this day that the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, solidifying its place in history.
Thus, July 4th became the day when we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, commemorating the monumental event of adopting this historic document that signifies the nation’s values and aspirations.
Here are more dates to remember:
- April 19, 1775: Start of the American Revolution with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
- July 2, 1776: Second Continental Congress votes for independence from Britain.
- July 4, 1776: Congress approves the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
- July 8, 1776: First public reading of the Declaration takes place at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Other readings occur in Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania. John Dunlap prints around 200 copies known as the “Dunlap Broadsides” and distributes them throughout the 13 colonies.
- August 2, 1776: Official signing of the Declaration of Independence begins, with John Hancock as the first to sign.
- August 4, 1776: After the delegates of the Continental Congress sign the document, the Declaration of Independence is made official.
How Did Our Founders Envision Independence Day Celebrations?
In a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, John Adams shared his vision for the celebration of independence. Contrary to expectations, he envisioned a festive and joyful occasion, filled with fun, games, and fireworks, rather than a display of military might. Adams expressed his hopes that future Americans would celebrate their independence in this spirit of merriment and enjoyment.
“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfully do…’
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 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.”
On July 18, 1777, an issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the July 4 celebration in Philadelphia:
“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”
Several years passed before the Fourth of July celebrations gained widespread popularity. Interestingly, the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson played a significant role in establishing July 4 as an important date to commemorate. It wasn’t until almost a century later, in 1870, that the U.S. Congress officially declared July 4 as a national holiday.
What sets America’s celebration of freedom apart is its unique emphasis on the joys and festivities associated with freedom. This approach was quite distinctive for its time and has since inspired many other countries to adopt a similar spirit of celebration. The enduring legacy of America’s celebration of freedom continues to inspire and influence celebrations around the world.
Refresh Your Memory: The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence stands as one of the most pivotal documents in the history of the United States. It represents the official and unanimous act of all 13 American colonies, declaring their independence from British rule.
Originally penned by Thomas Jefferson, the document underwent further refinements in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. On July 4, 1776, the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted, marking a historic moment in the birth of the nation. However, it was on August 2, 1776, that the signatories affixed their names to the official document.
Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence (U.S. 1776):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
More Fourth of July History
- July 4, 1776: Thomas Jefferson recorded in his “Weather Memorandum Book” that the weather on this day was cloudy, with a temperature of 76ºF.
- July 4, 1826: Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who were signers of the Declaration of Independence and later became presidents, passed away on the 50th anniversary of the declaration’s adoption.
- July 4, 1884: The Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the United States by the people of France, symbolizing the enduring friendship between the two nations.
- July 4, 1911: New England experienced scorching heat on this Fourth of July. All-time state records were set with temperatures reaching 106°F in Nashua, New Hampshire, and 105°F in Vernon, Vermont.
Celebrating the Fourth of July
In the U.S., Independence Day is a federal holiday celebrated with parades, concerts, outdoor feasts, and fireworks. Get ready for the Fourth of July with these five preparations.
- Raise the Flag: Consider displaying a front-entry flag if you don’t have a flagpole. Make sure to adhere to the American Flag Guidelines for proper flag display.
- Stay Casual: Make your Fourth of July celebration a relaxed affair. Explore our recipes for a delightful picnic or barbecue, including a selection of patriotic desserts.
- Play Games: Embrace the festive spirit by engaging in games suitable for all ages. Bring out cornhole, horseshoes, croquet, or even a backgammon set for porch lounging. If attending a party, bring your own games to keep everyone entertained until the fireworks begin.
- Fireworks: Carry on the tradition by incorporating fireworks, whether it’s small poppers and snaps or a grand display. Children can delight in sparklers, but ensure adult supervision and have a fire extinguisher nearby for safety.
- Beat the Heat and the Bugs: Combat the summer elements by having sunscreen, sunshades, ample drinking water, and bug spray readily available. Check out our suggestions for non-toxic mosquito repellents and easy remedies for mosquito bites using common pantry items.