Independence Day: Bells, fireworks and red, white and blue for the Fourth of July

“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 forever more.”

John Adams, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, 1776

Red, orange and purple fireworks exploding at nighttime above St. Louis

Fireworks in St. Louis, MO, one of many cities that hosts celebrations on the Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

THURSDAY, JULY 4: Hang the red, white and blue bunting, light the barbecue and get ready for fireworks—it’s the Fourth of July! On this date in 1776, delegates of the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. (Wikipedia has details.)

4TH OF JULY FOOD:
FROM CRAWFISH AND TARTS TO HOT DOGS AND FLAG CAKE

Cooked crawfish on dinner plate

Photo in public domain

Thirteen British colonies separated themselves from Great Britain in July 1776. John Adams got a few things wrong as he predicted what would unfold. First, he anticipated the celebration would culminate on July 2, the date the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. However, it wasn’t until July 4 that the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. (Read more at History.com.) Adams expected solemn remembrances, each year—not the holiday bashes in many U.S. cities.

On the nation’s first anniversary, in 1777, 13 gunshots were fired in salute; fireworks exploded; an official dinner was held for the Continental Congress at City Tavern in Philadelphia. Barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad weren’t on that first menu of the Fourth, though. In 1777, celebrants dined on rabbit, turkey, crawfish and lobsters with fruits, tarts, jellies and custards in place of today’s flag-shaped cakes and berry-dotted desserts. (USA Today has an article.) Since Philadelphia was a major port at the time, experts attest that exotic fruits and spices were likely on the menu in 1777, too.

SPENDING, TRAVEL TO SKYROCKET

Whether you’ll be hosting a gathering, attending one or just barbecuing in the backyard, enjoy the day off—it’s been a paid federal holiday since 1938. (Get more facts, stats and extras at USA.gov.)

During this, the most traveled vacation period of the summer, upward of 40 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over July 4 this year, auto club AAA predicts. Planning to travel? Forbes suggests five key places to visit. Gas prices have increased only slightly since July 2012, and overall spending is expected to soar: People expect to spend almost 60 percent more on July 4 festivities this year, according to an annual national survey. (The LA Times reported.) More than 40 percent of Americans plan to buy fireworks.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE: PARTIES, RECIPES, CRAFTS AND MORE

Cone with ice cream and star red, white and blue sprinkles

Photo courtesy of flickr

Hosting a July 4 fete?

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