In the United States, Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Declaration of Independence is a document which declares independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August, the 4th of July has been accepted as the official anniversary of the independence of the United States. The first Independence Day celebration took place on July 4th, 1777. By the early 1800’s, the traditions of parades, picnics, and fireworks were established as the way to celebrate America's birthday. Other Independence Day traditions are barbecues, baseball games, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, and traditions of the United States. It is often viewed simply as a summer festival, apart from its patriotic overtones. Sometimes it is also called red, white, and blue day, referring to the colors of the flag. 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.
At the time of the signing, the United States consisted of 13 colonies under the rule of England's King George III. There was growing unrest in the colonies concerning the taxes that had to be paid to England. This was commonly referred to as "Taxation without Representation," as the colonists did not have any representation in the English Parliament, and had no say in what went on. As the unrest grew in the colonies, King George sent extra troops to help control any rebellion.
In 1774, the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to form the First Continental Congress. The delegates were unhappy with England, but were not yet ready to declare war.
In April, 1775, as the King's troops advanced on Concord, Massachusetts, Paul Revere sounded the alarm that "The British are coming, the British are coming" as he rode his horse through the late night streets. The battle of Concord and its "shot heard round the world" would mark the unofficial beginning of the colonies’ war for Independence.
The following May, the colonies again sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. For almost a year, the congress tried to work out its differences with England, again without formally declaring war.
By June, 1776, their efforts had become hopeless and a committee was formed to compose a formal declaration of independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, which was presented to the Congress on June, 28th. After various changes, a vote was taken late in the afternoon of July 4th. Of the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration. Two of the colonies, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, voted “no.” Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.
To make it official, John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock signed his name "with a great flourish" so that King George could read it without spectacles.
Adams was off by two days. Certainly, the vote on July 2nd was the decisive act. However, July 4th, is the date that Jefferson's stirring prose, as edited by the Congress, was officially adopted and was the first day Philadelphians heard any concrete news of independence from the Continental Congress.
The following day, copies of the Declaration were distributed. The first newspaper to print the Declaration was the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th, 1776. On July 8th, the Declaration had its first public reading in Philadelphia's Independence Square. Twice that day, the Declaration was read to cheering crowds and pealing church bells. Even the bell in Independence Hall was rung. The "Province Bell" would later be renamed the “Liberty Bell” after its inscription- Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.
Families often celebrate the Fourth of July with a picnic or a barbecue, and take advantage of the day off to gather with relatives. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue. Parades are often in the morning, while firework displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem, “America the Beautiful”, and “My Country, 'Tis of Thee.” Major firework displays are held in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C.
A barbecue is a common social event in the Unites States. It is the grilling of meat, (e.g., hamburgers, ribs, steaks, or hot dogs) and enjoying it with your friends or family. Many people have barbecue grills in their backyards, which are used mainly on weekends when barbecues take place. The most common methods of barbecuing are using gas, or charcoals to heat the meat. This may be hard to believe, but on the event of a barbecue, the men do most of the cooking. A man’s BBQ is usually one of his most prized possessions. If you are invited to a BBQ, then it is usually polite to bring something, such as a salad or a desert to the event. This style of gathering is similar to a potluck. An essential part of barbecues is BBQ sauce.
Barbecue sauces may combine sour, sweet, spicy, and tangy ingredients or focus on a particular flavor alone. It sometimes carries with it a smoky flavor. The ingredients vary, but some commonplace items are tomato paste, vinegar, spices, and sweeteners. These variations are often due to regional traditions and recipes.