The 4th of July as far as history is concerned is a day to celebrate our country and what was given to create it.
In today’s society of fast-paced life and repetitive behavior there is often little thought given to the why’s and wherefores of what we do. On the Fourth of July families across the nation gather along a parade route, scramble in the gutter for some candy, then proceed to a BBQ and wrap the day off on a quilt beneath a sparkling sky of stars and fireworks. Why?
It Began on July 2nd
While the official day of celebration falls on the fourth day of July each year the events being commemorated actually occurred during a time spanning July 2, 1776 through August of the same year. It was on July 2nd that the Second Continental Congress comprised of delegates from each of the 13 original colonies voted and passed a motion of independence from Great Britain.
The Declaration of Independence was then debated and revised until its final draft was signed on July 4th, 1776. The actual gathering of signatures was not complete until August of that year. Yet the commemoration of America asserting its freedom as a sovereign nation apart from the British Empire has been observed every year on July 4th since 1776.
The Original Celebration
The very first celebration of American Independence was on July 8th 1776 when the declaration of Independence was read aloud and the Liberty Bell tolled in Philadelphia. The following year in 1777, July 4th was celebrated in grand style; guns were fired in the morning and at dusk, ships were docked and bedecked with red, white and blue banners, and parades, prayer, and speeches marked the day.
Even during the Revolutionary War July 4th was celebrated by the Patriots. It is said that George Washington celebrated July 4th 1778 by allowing his men double rations of rum. However meager it might have been, it is remarkable that during a war with the cause of independence at it’s very heart they took the time to celebrate.
While the Fourth of July was being celebrated annually since the founding fathers first signed the Declaration of Independence, it wasn’t until 1941 that it was declared an official national holiday. Patriotism was at a peak during this time, as World War II was raging in Europe. The United States would not enter the war until December of that year, but the need for national unification was still there. As the country entered World War II, it needed the spirit of Independence Day to help keep everyone unified. The first known use of the term ‘Independence Day’ was in 1791.
Fourth of July celebrations remain very similar to what they were in the 1770s. Families and communities gather outdoors to pass the day, attending speeches, parades, salutes with cannons and guns, and fireworks displays. Traditional foods are of the picnic and BBQ variety.
Many families choose to hang the American flag outside of their homes, honoring the country that many men and women have given their lives for. As more time passes between America's independence and the modern day, it can be easy to forget about the rough beginnings our country had. With as much political and social strife as there is these days, it's important to remember that we are all united under a desire for freedom.
This 4th of July, take a few moments to remind your children about what the 4th is all about. Yes, it's a day for celebration and fun. But it's also a day to honor those whose lives were lost in defense of their country, and to look ahead toward a better future. One day, your children's generation will be the ones in charge. Hopefully, they create a great future for everyone.
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