Each year on July 4th, the United States celebrates Independence Day. This federal holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
For nearly 250 years, the country has been celebrating a day in history that inspires us still today. On July 4th, speeches and ceremonies are held across the nation. Across the country, people crowd cities for parades and festivals. Streets are decked out in red, white and blue bunting and flags.
While families and friends gather for some of the most mouthwatering food – large picnics and barbecues, local fairs provide a taste of culture and mom’s home cooking, too. With so many converging on their hometowns, family and school reunions take place.
Before the day is over, many communities hold spectacular fireworks displays re-enact moments of victory. Patriotic music accompanies the performance while spectators view the show from blankets strewn along capital lawns or from boats floating in bays. Whether out National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America,” many will sing along. In some locations, music will be played by a live orchestra or band, while in other areas it’s pre-recorded. Some of the most popular on the playlist are “America the Beautiful,” “My Country, Tis of Thee,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “Yankee Doodle” and “Dixie.”
In some parts of the country, people will shoot their own fireworks. Children delight in the bright colors and sparklers. They roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
HOW TO OBSERVE INDEPENDENCE DAY
- At noon, a “Salute to the Union” is fired, each July 4th, by any capable military base. This is a salute of one gun for each state in the United States.
- In 2009, New York City hosted the largest fireworks display in the country.
- Held since 1785, the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States.
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HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY
- July 4, 1777 – The First Anniversary – Bristol, Rhode Island, fired thirteen gunshots in salute: once in the morning and once again at evening. Philadelphia hosted an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decorated with red, white, and blue bunting.
- July 4, 1778 – General George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum and an artillery salute. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin hosted a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
- July 4, 1779 – Since the holiday fell on a Sunday, celebrations were held on Monday, July 5th.
- July 4, 1781 – The Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4th as a state celebration.
- July 4, 1783 – Moravians in Salem, North Carolina celebrated with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. The work was titled “The Psalm of Joy.”
- July 4, 1791 – The first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred.
- July 4, 1820 – Eastport Main held the first Fourth of July celebration, and it remains the largest in the state.
- July 4, 1870 – The United States Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
- July 4, 1938 – The United States Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.