Independence Day is often associated with enjoying a long weekend, shopping for big sales and barbecuing, but what is the history behind the holiday?
Today we celebrate what took place on this day 246 years ago: the birth of American independence. Also known as the Fourth of July or July 4th, Independence Day was declared a federal holiday in 1870 (and was expanded to be a paid holiday to all federal employees in 1941), but its roots date back to the 18th century when delegates from the 13 colonies adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
In mid-1776, when more colonists began to favor independence during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a statement justifying independence from Great Britain. In a nearly unanimous vote, Congress voted in favor of a break from Britain on July 2.
It wasn’t until July 4 that the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted, which is why we celebrate two days after the vote took place. John Adams believed that July 2 was the true birth of American independence, and even wrote to his wife that the day would be celebrated for generations with “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” In protest of everyone else celebrating two days after, Adams reportedly refused to appear at Fourth of July celebrations.
Early traditions included holding mock funerals for King George III, symbolic of the end of the monarchy’s rule over America. Other activities included bonfires, parades and firing cannons and muskets.
The first organized celebration of this holiday was in Philadelphia in 1777. It was at this celebration that the tradition of setting off fireworks began. After the War of 1812, celebrating Independence Day became much more widespread, and in 1870, the U.S. Congress declared it a federal holiday.
We hope you now have a better understanding of the history behind this historical day, and urge you to take the following precautions with your festivities today:
For the barbecuers: Don’t grill under the influence, watch out for loose brush bristles (which can be choking hazards) and keep your grill away from flammable objects like bushes and trees.
For firework lovers: Setting off fireworks at home is always a dangerous idea. Instead, go to a public fireworks display that’s handled by professionals.
For those who like to drink: Don’t drive under the influence. If you’ve had even a little too much to drink, have someone sober drive you home. It’s not worth putting yourself and others at risk.
Happy Independence Day!
– Miguel & Vineet