July 4th wasn’t always about spreading red, white, and blue throughout the streets and the bursts of fireworks. This federal holiday commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence over 200 years ago in 1776. Sure, we show pride in our nation and celebrate the freedom and liberties granted to us. However, do we really know the true meaning of July 4th and its history? Every year we head to the best spot to view the fireworks, but why exactly do we celebrate this day? What makes July 4th so special you may ask? Let’s take a look at the history of July 4th and find out how it became the nation’s birthday.
July 4th History:
To start, Independence Day better celebrated and known simply as July 4th was established in 1776. On July 4th, 1776 the Thirteen Colonies claimed their independence from England, which formed the United States of America. Through this, the Thirteen Colonies established their independence and grew to become the nation that we know today. The legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2nd. The Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence of the United States from Great Britain rule. The formation of the Declaration of Independence served as an explanation for the decision of voting for independence. The Declaration went through many revisions for two days until its final approval on July 4th.
Historians believe that the signing of the Declaration occurred on August 2nd, 1776. Even with written records from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin confirming that they signed the Declaration on July 4th, historians still believe it was signed in August.
The Declaration of Independence established the nation’s desire for unity and independence from British Rule. Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The Declaration exemplifies this quote and shows through remaining united, we are a strong nation built on upholding each other. The holiday is not just a day to celebrate and watch fireworks, but to celebrate the United States gaining its independence in order to provide us with a better future.
July 4th Past-Celebrations:
The establishment of July 4th as a federal holiday in the United States did not occur until 1941. However, we can trace back the celebrations to the 18th century. Pre-Revolutionary July 4th celebrations included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. Mock funerals for King George III were also held to symbolize the end of the monarchy’s hold on America. The celebrations also included concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets with the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence after its adoption. The first celebration of independence occurred in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, which allowed the nation’s new political leaders to create a sense of unity amongst its people.
July 4th Today:
Fourth of July celebrations today are full of nothing but excited people dressed from head to toe in red, white, and blue. The usual festivities can include anything from a parade, a barbecue, festivals, and of course a fireworks show. Many people look forward to watching the fireworks light up the night sky as they celebrate with their loved ones. Collectively as a nation, almost every state celebrates July 4th the same way. You start your day off with a fun and festive event then end it with an amazing fireworks show. The unity that the Declaration originally established is still present in the way in which we celebrate this national holiday.
The original signed Declaration is viewable in downtown Washington D.C. at the National Archives building. You can view the document digitally by clicking here. The National Archives building is home to many of the nation’s founding documents. You can visit their website here and view many historical pieces of art, documents, and records as well.
July 4th will always be the birth of our nation, however, it is important to always remember the reason why we celebrate. We celebrate this holiday to remember that we are an independent nation that is dependent on uniting its people through fair and equal treatment. The Declaration states, “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.” We are all entitled to freedom and happiness and that is what we should remember as we celebrate this great July 4th holiday.