July 4th (also known as Independence Day or July 4th) has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of celebrating Independence Day dates back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted Thomas Jefferson’s historic document, the Declaration of Independence. From 1776 to the present, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth day of American independence, with celebrations ranging from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. July 4, 2021 is Sunday, July 4, 2021; a federal holiday will be celebrated on Monday, July 5, 2021.

 

A History of Independence Day

When the Continental Congress met on June 7 at the Pennsylvania State Capitol (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Virginia Representative Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

Amid heated debate, Congress delayed a vote on Lee’s resolution but appointed a five-member committee — including Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, Massachusetts’ John Adams, Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, Pennsylvania’s Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Franklin and Robert R. Livingston of New York – to draft a formal statement justifying a break with Britain.

do you know? John Adams, who believes July 2 is an appropriate date to celebrate the birth of American independence, will reportedly turn down invitations to the July 4 event in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

On July 4, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, largely written by Jefferson. Although the actual vote for independence took place on July 2, the 4th became the day to celebrate the birth of American independence.

 

Early Fourth of July Celebrations

In the years leading up to the Revolution, the colonists held an annual celebration of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included ringing of bells, bonfires, parades and speeches. By contrast, in the summer of 1776, some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding a mock funeral for King George III to symbolize the end of the monarchy’s grip on America and the triumph of liberty.

Celebrations such as concerts, bonfires, parades, and cannon and musket shooting often accompany the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, which begins immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held its first annual Independence Memorial on July 4, 1777, and Congress remained preoccupied with the ongoing war.

George Washington issued double rum rations to all his soldiers on the anniversary of Independence in 1778, and in 1781, a few months before America’s decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to bring seven States where the 4th of the month is a statutory holiday.

After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to celebrate Independence Day each year, a celebration that allowed emerging political leaders of the new country to reach citizens and create a sense of unity. In the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties—the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party—began to hold separate Fourth of July celebrations in many major cities.

 

Fourth of July Fireworks

The first fireworks were already in 200 BC. used. The Fourth of July fireworks tradition began with the first organized Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. The naval gun fired a 13-gun salute in tribute to the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “That night there was a huge fireworks show (beginning and ending with 13 rockets) on the House of Commons, and the city was lit up with beautiful lights.” Fireworks go off over Boston Common.

 

Fourth of July Becomes a Federal Holiday

The tradition of patriotic celebrations spread further after the War of 1812, when America faced Britain again. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4 a federal holiday; in 1941, the rule was expanded to allow paid vacation for all federal employees.

The holiday’s political importance has declined over the years, but Independence Day remains an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Fourth of July in midsummer has become a major focus of leisure activities and a common occasion for family reunions, often with fireworks and outdoor barbecues. The most common symbol of the festival is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”