Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States, and were no longer part of the British Empire.
The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2.
Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, , , carnivals, funfair, , , baseball, , and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.
During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a Lee Resolution
that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia
declaring the United States independent from Great Britain rule.
[Becker, p. 3.]
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 of Five, with Thomas Jefferson
as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams
had written to his wife Abigail Adams
Adams's 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.
Historians have long disputed whether members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.
[Becker, pp. 184–85.] [For the minority scholarly argument that the Declaration was signed on July 4, see Wilfred J. Ritz, "The Authentication of the Engrossed Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776", Law and History Review 4, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 179–204, via JSTOR.]
Coincidentally, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, James Monroe, another Founding Father who was elected as President, also died on July 4, 1831. He was the third President who died on the anniversary of independence. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872; so far he is the only U.S. President to have been born on Independence Day.
In 1777, thirteen were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, Saluting guns, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships in port were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
[Heintze, "The First Celebrations".]
In 1778, from his headquarters at Ross Hall, near New Brunswick, New Jersey, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute ( feu de joie). Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
[Heintze, "A Chronology of Notable Fourth of July Celebration Occurrences".]
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, Moravian Church 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. This is recognized as the first recorded celebration and is still celebrated there today.
In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
[Heintze, "How the Fourth of July was Designated as an 'Official' Holiday".]
In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
[Heintze, "Federal Legislation Establishing the Fourth of July Holiday".]
Independence Day is a National Day 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 (such as 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; many take advantage of the day off and, in some years, a long weekend to gather with relatives or friends. Decorations ( e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades are often held in the morning, before family get-togethers, while fireworks displays occur in the evening after dark at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
The night before the Fourth was once the focal point of celebrations, marked by raucous gatherings often incorporating bonfires as their centerpiece. In New England, towns competed to build towering pyramids, assembled from barrels and casks. They were lit at nightfall to usher in the celebration. The highest were in Salem, Massachusetts, with pyramids composed of as many as forty tiers of barrels. These made the tallest bonfires ever recorded. The custom flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries and is still practiced in some New England towns.
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. In addition, local and regional weather conditions may dictate whether the sale or use of fireworks in an area will be allowed. Some local or regional firework sales are limited or prohibited because of dry weather or other specific concerns. On these occasions the public may be prohibited from purchasing or discharging fireworks, but professional displays (such as those at sports events) may still take place, if certain safety precautions have been taken.
A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a "salute to the union," is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base.
In 2009, New York City had the largest fireworks display in the country, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploded.
[ It generally holds displays in the East River. Other major displays are in Chicago on Lake Michigan; in San Diego over Mission Bay; in Boston on the Charles River; in St. Louis on the Mississippi River; in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay; and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
During the annual Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit hosts one of the world's largest fireworks displays, over the Detroit River, to celebrate Independence Day in conjunction with Windsor, Ontario's celebration of Canada Day.
The first week of July is typically one of the busiest United States travel periods of the year, as many people use what is often a three-day holiday weekend for extended vacation trips.
[ "AAA Chicago Projects Increase in Fourth of July Holiday Travelers", PR Newswire, 23 June 2010]
File:Miamifireworks.jpg|In addition to a fireworks show, Miami, Florida lights Miami Tower with the patriotic red, white and blue color scheme on Independence Day
File:Fireworks over the East Village of New York City.JPG|New York City's fireworks display, shown above over the East Village, is sponsored by Macy's and is the largest
[ Biggest fireworks show in U.S. lights up sky, USA Today, July 2009.] in the country
File:Independence Day, 1940 Promotion.ogv|Patriotic trailer shown in theaters celebrating July 4, 1940
File:Fourth of July Cake.jpg|A festively decorated Independence day cake.
File:Yellow Lab at Cedar Lake, Howe, Indiana - 4 July, 2009.jpg|Lakes are a popular destination for Fourth of July celebrations in the Midwest.
Held since 1785, the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States.
Since 1868, Seward, Nebraska has held a celebration on the same town square. In 1979 Seward was designated "America's Official Fourth of July City-Small Town USA" by resolution of Congress. Seward has also been proclaimed "Nebraska's Official Fourth of July City" by Governor James Exon in proclamation. Seward is a town of 6,000 but swells to 40,000+ during the July 4 celebrations.
Since 1912, the Rebild Society, a Danish-American friendship organization, has held a July 4 weekend festival that serves as a homecoming for Danish-Americans in the Rebild Hills of Denmark.
Since 1959, the International Freedom Festival is jointly held in Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario during the last week of June each year as a mutual celebration of Independence Day and Canada Day (July 1). It culminates in a large fireworks display over the Detroit River.
The famous Macy's fireworks display usually held over the East River in New York City has been televised nationwide on NBC since 1976. In 2009, the fireworks display was returned to the Hudson River for the first time since 2000 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of that river.
The Boston Pops Orchestra has hosted a music and fireworks show over the Charles River Esplanade called the "Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" annually since 1973.
The event was broadcast nationally from 1991 until 2002 on A&E, and since 2002 by CBS and its Boston station WBZ-TV. WBZ/1030 and WBZ-TV broadcast the entire event locally, and from 2002 through 2012, CBS broadcast the final hour of the concert nationally in primetime. The national broadcast was put on hiatus beginning in 2013, which Pops executive producer David G. Mugar believed was the result of decreasing viewership caused by NBC's encore presentation of the Macy's fireworks. [James H. Burnett III. Boston gets a nonreality show: CBS broadcasts impossible views of 4th fireworks. Boston Globe, July 8, 2011] The national broadcast will be revived for 2016, and expanded to two hours.
On the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., A Capitol Fourth, a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network, precedes the fireworks and attracts over half a million people annually.
The Philippines celebrates July 4 as its Republic Day to commemorate that day in 1946 when it ceased to be a U.S. territory and the United States officially recognized Philippine Independence.
July 4 was intentionally chosen by the United States because it corresponds to its Independence Day, and this day was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until 1962. In 1964, the name of the July 4 holiday was changed to Republic Day. In Rwanda, July 4 is an official holiday known as Liberation Day, commemorating the end of the Rwandan Genocide in which the U.S. government also played a role. Rebild National Park in Denmark is said to hold the largest July 4 celebrations outside of the United States.
Constitution Day (United States)
To the Fourth of July (1898), poem
"What to a slave is the 4th of July?" – 1852 Frederick Douglass speech
Criblez, Adam (2013). Parading Patriotism: Independence Day Celebrations in the Urban Midwest, 1826–1876. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.