Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th? What would you like to know.
Americans across the country are expected to celebrate July 4 this weekend with parades, barbecues and red, white and blue clothing.
In the nation’s capital, President Biden is preparing to welcome a group of essential workers and military families Sunday on the South Lawn of the White House. The National Park Service also hosts the annual conference Independence Day fireworks celebration on the National Mall.
But why does the United States specifically commemorate July 4, since the Declaration of Independence was in fact signed later? When did Americans start observing the Patriotic Day and why are we setting off fireworks?
Here’s what you need to know about Independence Day:
What do we celebrate on July 4th?
July 4, also known as Independence Day, marks the anniversary of the Second Continental Congress adopting the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Congress, made up of delegates from the original 13 colonies of the United States, unanimously approved the document declaring independence from Great Britain.
Barbara Clark Smith, curator of political history at the National Museum of American History, told USA TODAY that it was “an extraordinary achievement for these settlers to come together” to adopt the founding declaration.
“They found a way to put their differences aside and work together for a common goal,” she added. “While declaring independence, they also declared interdependence. ”
Fun fact: The Continental Congress did not vote for independence on July 4 alone. Twelve of the 13 colonies approved a resolution calling for independence on July 2, 1776.
Another funny fact: many original signatories did not put their names on the Declaration of Independence until August 2, 1776.
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What were the first Independence Day celebrations?
Some Americans began celebrating July 4 the year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. In a letter to his daughter, former President John Adams wrote that July 4, 1777 was celebrated in Philadelphia “with a feast and a ceremony becoming the occasion.” according to the Library of Congress.
But July 4th has become more widely observed by Americans after the war of 1812. Independence Day became the most important non-religious holiday for many Americans in the 1870s, and Congress passed a law making Independence Day a federal holiday on June 28, 1870.
Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson and four other members of the Second Continental Congress, including Adams, Benjamin Frankin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, formed a committee in 1776 responsible for drafting a declaration, who later undergo dozens of changes before being signed by 56 men.
But Jefferson is credited with writing the document we know today that calls for “inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
However, the famous words of the declaration did not apply to everyone in the thirteen colonies, such as slaves, indigenous people and other groups.
Why do we have fireworks?
During the first celebration of July 4 in Philadelphia in 1777, The Americans fired 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies. Thirteen fireworks were also set off across the city as part of the celebrations.
Boston revelers also set off fireworks in 1777, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Kate Haulman, associate professor of history at American University, told USA TODAY that the fireworks and other festivities are part of a tradition of public celebrations in England, citing Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates a foiled plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Haulman called the early Independence Day celebrations “a continuation of old types of political culture, but made American.”
And Americans have continued to celebrate with fireworks and into the 21st century, with fireworks sales are exploding in 2020.
How will Americans celebrate July 4th this year?
In 2021, many Americans will both celebrate July 4 and commemorate being able to safely come together after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year issued guidelines saying fully vaccinated U.S. residents may attend gatherings at homes or other indoor settings without wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.