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Independence Day (United States)

From Academic Kids

Independence Day
Observed by: Americans
Also called: Fourth of July
Begins: July 4
OccasionAnniversary of the Declaration of Independence
Symbols:Fireworks, picnics
Related to: Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day
These fireworks over the  are typical of Fourth of July celebrations
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These fireworks over the Washington Monument are typical of Fourth of July celebrations

In the United States, Independence Day, also called the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

It is commonly associated with parades, barbecues, picnics and various public celebratory events. Fireworks have been associated with the Fourth of July since 1777.

Contents

History

Why the 4th?

Though the Fourth of July is almost iconic to Americans, some claim the date itself is somewhat arbitrary. New Englanders had been fighting Britain since April 1775. The first motion in the Continental Congress for independence was made on June 8. After hard debate, the Congress voted unanimously (12-0), but secretly, for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain on July 2. The Congress reworked the text of the Declaration until a little after eleven o'clock, July 4th, when twelve colonies voted for adoption and released an unsigned copy to the printers. (New York abstained from both votes.) Philadelphia celebrated the Declaration with public readings and bonfires on July 8. Not until August 2 would a fair printing be signed by the members of the Congress, but even that was kept secret to protect the members from British reprisal.

John Adams, credited by Thomas Jefferson as the unofficial, tireless whip of the independence-minded, wrote his wife Abigail on July 3:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

Adams was off by two days, however. Certainly, the vote on July 2 was the decisive act. But July 4 is the date on the Declaration itself. Jefferson's stirring prose, as edited by the Congress, was first adopted by the vote of the 4th. It was also the first day Philadelphians heard the official news of independence from the Continental Congress, as opposed to rumors in the street about secret votes.

History of Observance

Customs

Independence Day, as the only holiday celebrating the country as a whole, is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Many politicians make it a point on this day to appear at a public event to praise the nation's heritage and people. Families often mark the Fourth with a picnic or barbecue, and often gather in more distant relatives, taking advantage of the longer weekend. Parades are often held the morning of the 4th; the evening is usually marked by public displays of fireworks.

In many states, smaller fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show. Concerns about safety have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed, but illicit traffic brings some of the more powerful firecrackers in from less restrictive border states.

One colorful annual Independence Day event is the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, which supposedly started on July 4, 1916 as a way to settle a dispute among four immigrants as to who was the most patriotic.

See also

External links

  • US State Department (http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/holidays/july4/) on Independence Day
  • An extensive history (http://www.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm) of Independence Day by James R. Heintze, American University, Washington, D.C.
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