MONDAY, JULY 4: Nothing says “summer” in the U.S. like the Fourth of July, when the Stars and Stripes fly high and family cars fill the freeways: Today, on Independence Day, Americans celebrate freedom with parades, picnics, reunions with family and friends and fireworks exploding in the night sky. Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval, and Americans observe this day in grand ceremony. So fire up the grill, deck out your yard (or yourself) in red, white and blue, and enjoy summer’s all-American holiday!
No major fireworks in your area? Tune in to CBS for the live webcast of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks, which will feature celebrities Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas this year and is attended by a half million people annually.
THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY
With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too.
In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft. A total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4 by the Second Continental Congress. On July 5, 1776, official copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed.
Which Founding Father would you vote for? Take quizzes and test your Constitution knowledge at ConstitutionFacts.com.
One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day. Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.
A Capitol Fourth: A salute of one gun for each U.S. state is fired on July 4 at noon by any capable military base, and in the evening, A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C.
FOURTH OF JULY RECIPES, PARTY TIPS & MORE
Nothing sets the stage for a summer party like the occasion of the Fourth of July! Dig up those red, white and blue decorations and recipes, and invite neighbors and friends over for a birthday bash for the nation.
Reader’s Digest offers 10 fun party games fit for any celebration of the Fourth.