The 4th of July what’s it all about?
The fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays, with picnics, family gatherings, fireworks, ballgames, swimming and fun in the park with friends. I can remember growing up and getting excited starting about a week or two before the actual day. My friends and I would collect pop bottles and turn them in to the corner store for the two or five cents deposits and save our money until one of the illegal fireworks dealers come around selling explosives and incendiaries out of the trunk of his car and buy as many firecrackers and blockbusters as we could get. When we had enough, we tried to hide them away until the fourth of July so our parents didn’t find them and take them away from us. When the big day came we were all so excited. We knew how much fun we would have that day. The day usually started out by going with my grandfather to buy big blocks of ice to keep all of the beverages cold for the day, ice was also use for sitting contests by my younger siblings. He put it in a wash tub under a tree in the back yard so no one had to go very far for a beverage. My mother and grandmother would start to get the food ready for the all day long feast. They would get the ground meat out and make hamburger patties, boil eggs and potatoes for potato salad among other things. My father got the charcoal grill out and got it ready to cook. There was usually a big blast of flame when it got lit. My father’s eyebrows and hair usually got singed pretty good. Since my grandfather lived next to our local park, we would walk down to the public pool and swim for most of the afternoon, but the best part of the day was after dark when we could sit in the yard and watch the fireworks display. Our park had both ground works and sky shows, which were the best around. The groundworks had displays of ships shooting at planes and other war time shows simulating world war two battles. The sky rockets were very bright and made extremely loud booms. I remember watching them and the burnt paper drifting down on us. After the big public display in the park, my grandfather brought out the sparklers for us to play with while the adults would all stop in for food and drink. It was a great time, and I think what everyone liked the most was the fireworks.
Believe it or not, the fourth of July has only been a Federal Holiday since 1941, however the tradition of celebrating goes back to the eighteenth century and the revolutionary war. The continental congress voted in favor or independence on July 2nd 1776 and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, the historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to present day, the 4th of July has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.
Few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain when the first battles of the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775. Those who did were considered radicals.
It’s hard to imagine the fourth of July without fireworks and incendiary displays, so let’s see how this tradition got started. This tradition goes back almost as far as independence itself. How fireworks became ubiquitous with the fourth of July dates back to the summer of 1776 during the first months of the revolutionary war. It was on the first of July that the delegates of the Continental Congress were in Philadelphia debating over whether the thirteen colonies should declare their independence from Britain’s parliament and from King George III himself. That night word came that the British war ships had sailed into New York harbor, posing an immediate threat to the Continental Army, commanded by George Washington. On the second of July delegates from twelve colonies voted for independence with New York to follow suit on July 9th. On July 3rd an excited John Adams wrote the following letter to his wife.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote. “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Adams was only off by a couple of days and the first organized celebration was held on July 4, 1777.
While we always think of this holiday with fireworks, cookouts, and other fun family events, it’s always important to remember the history behind this important day. The Declaration of Independence has changed our nation for the better. 1776 is a year to remember and be forever grateful for our true “Independence Day.”