Why Do We Celebrate the Fourth of July?
Each July 4th, Americans celebrate the birth of the United States of America—the greatest country in the world. It’s a day filled with fireworks, barbecues, parades and other forms of celebration. But how did the 4th of July, also called Independence Day, become synonymous with the birth of our nation? Read on to get to know more about the origins of the 4th of July, as well as some interesting ways to commemorate America’s birthday.
What is the 4th of July?
The 4th of July is an annual celebration of our country’s founding, commemorating the day the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring freedom from Great Britain. The document was originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and William Livingston, on July 2, 1776, and signed two days later, on July 4, 1776.
For many, July 4th was seen as the end of a long struggle for America’s independence from Great Britain. When war broke out in April 1775, few Americans wanted full independence, but by the middle of 1776, more colonists favored complete freedom thanks to growing hostility from Britain. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a pivotal moment, with Philadelphia holding the first annual commemoration of the day on July 4, 1777, while America was still in the middle of war with Britain. The celebration included fireworks in the form of a 13-gun salute, beautifully illuminating the city. On the same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common in a display of unity and patriotism.
July 4th celebrations were carried over from festivities originally started during the revolutionary period of the 1760s and 1770s. During this time, patriots celebrated to proclaim resistance to Parliament’s legislation while supporting King George III. Festivities were held on the king’s birthday, often including bonfires, ringing of bells, parades and speeches. As hostilities grew between the colonists and the British crown, festivities in the summer of 1776 took the form of a mock funeral for the king, symbolically proclaiming an end to the tyranny of British rule for the colonists.
The history of Independence Day traditions
During the early years of the new republic, Americans celebrated the 4th of July with parades, speeches and toasts dedicated to commemorating the birth of the new nation. These celebrations played a pivotal role in the development of our federal political system, providing venues for party leaders and constituents to discuss important national issues. As celebrations evolved in the 1790s, political parties—namely the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republicans—began holding separate Independence Day celebrations in larger towns, bringing together like-minded people who wished to show their love for their country.
In the 19th century, Independence Day became more of a serious occasion than a celebration—in some cases, it was even a subject of ridicule like the democratic political process was during this time. As American society grew and became more diverse, the Fourth of July returned to its patriotic roots, becoming a celebration that resonated with many groups—not just political parties. Abolitionists, advocates for women’s rights and even the temperance movement used the 4th of July as a special day to not only celebrate the nation’s birthday, but also to bolster support for their individual causes, often declaring that they could not celebrate with the nation as a whole until their rights were acknowledged.
With the rise of leisure in the 20th century, 4th of July festivities took on new forms. No longer was Independence Day simply a venue for politics—it became an important symbol of national power and unity. It’s also a celebration of all things distinctly American, even things as simple as the freedom to stay home for the day and barbecue with family and friends.
Happy 4th of July!
Today, the Fourth of July is a major midsummer holiday all Americans look forward to. The day is marked by barbecues, parades, concerts and—of course—fireworks. Aside from viewing your local fireworks display on the evening of July 4th, there are several creative ways to celebrate Independence Day with your friends and family. Just a few include:
- Wear patriotic clothing: Show your love for your country on July 4th, and any other day of the year, by wearing patriotic apparel. Everyone looks good in red, white and blue, so grab some 4th of July shirt, hats and other accessories and celebrate our nation’s heritage.
- Make a patriotic playlist: Hosting a backyard barbecue on the 4th? Make a playlist of great music to set the tone for the day. Put together a playlist from the Great American Songbook, like “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and songs that make you feel all-American, like “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Party in the U.S.A.”
- Make holiday crafts: Celebrating July 4th with little ones? Instill a spirit of patriotism at an early age by making some red, white and blue crafts. Make your own flag out of ribbon and lace or tissue paper “sparklers.” You could even get in touch with your artistic side and grab markers, paints and paper and create a patriotic work of art.
- Take a road trip to a historic site: There’s no better time of year to hit the road and visit some of the places that make America great than the 4th of July. Take in the beauty of our country by checking out a nearby national park or a local monument. Or head to the National Mall to visit the most important sites in our nation—there’s nothing quite like seeing the “rockets’ red glare” behind the Washington Memorial.
No matter how you spend your next 4th of July, make sure you do it while wearing patriotic clothing to show your support for your country. Better yet, show your patriotism every day of the year by wearing your favorite patriotic apparel. Get all the gear you need at The Flag Shirt and have a Happy Fourth of July!