Independence Day: July 4th
Most Americans know at least most of the larger details about how they came to celebrate July 4th as their Independence Day. Indeed, many countries, especially those that were former colonies, celebrate a day that marks the day they became their own country or formed a new government. In many places, these celebrations, much like the American celebration, are marked with lively parties and symbols of patriotism. On July 4th of year since 1777, Americans have celebrated their independence from Great Britain, even if the truth of when Independence occurred is actually more complex than that.
Although July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day in America, it is interesting to note that in 1776, that seminal year in American history, not much particularly exciting happened. The original to declare independence from Britain had taken place a month earlier, on June 7, 1776. The resolution was introduced not by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin, or George Washington, the men everyone thinks of when they think of the Founding Fathers, but by a man named Richard Henry Lee, a delegate to the Continental Congress from Virginia.
It was not until 3 days later, on June 10, 1776 that a committee, led by Thomas Jefferson and including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, convened to begin writing the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the only thing of historical note that happened on July 4, 1776 was that it was adopted by the Continental Congress. No member or delegate had signed the document, it had not been delivers, and it was still, in large part, a secret from people not involved in the Congress. Indeed, the public did not get a look at the Declaration of Independence until the next day, after the Continental Congress had already voted. The first newspaper to publish it in their paper was the Pennsylvania Evening Post. They published it in their July 6th edition.
Unlike other American holidays, like Thanksgiving, which took a long time to develop and take hold among the general population, people began celebrating July 4th as Independence Day from the very beginning. Most people would agree that the fireworks are supposed to represent the bombs and the rockets used during the American Revolution. Today, many communities hold parades during the day and later display fireworks in the evening when the 4th of July rolls around. Such actions are meant to pay tribute to the founding fathers and the men who fought in the American Revolution. However, for many people, these parades don’t just honor the Founding Fathers and people who, even without the war, would have been dead for two hundred years, the parades are also to honor all the men and women of the military.
There are other traditions associated with Independence Day that are not steeped in history or patriotism. One of these is the barbeque. Americans love a barbeque. It gives them a chance to be outside, right in the middle of summer, with friends and family, to eat food that they enjoy and drink a beer or two (or more). One thing that is very interesting is that, especially in the earlier years, there were many attempts to move the holiday, so that it would always fall on a weekend, like resolutions calling to make Independence Day the first or second Saturday in July.
These resolutions have always been wildly unpopular. Americans like their day off of work that usually falls in the middle of the week, and, more importantly, don’t want an important piece of their history changed by people who think that a weekend celebration may be more convenient. Independence Day is an important American celebration. While it is primarily about American independence, it is also about celebrating American ideals of family and freedom and the type of country that they are still very much aspiring to be.