Being stuck in the melancholy of the afternoon office space, the words “Independence Day” will likely bring two images to your exhausted mind: the 1996 alien invasion film that all of us have likely seen at one point in our lives, and much more importantly, the federal holiday held on the Fourth of July that celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Even though Christmas is easily the most popular holiday in the country, per se, Independence Day is without a doubt the national day of America.
The special occasion, combined with the long Independence Day weekend, is commonly why many employees will use their vacation time to create an extended holiday period to take their families to their favorite vacation places and get away from the stress of work and life.
Independence Day Practices
Most Americans associate Independence Day with impressive, awe-inspiring fireworks and smoke filled barbecues. The old saying goes that you can’t get any more American than steak and apple pie, so it would make sense that both are commonly grilled and baked respectively on the Fourth. These things, in addition to the parades, picnics, and games, serve as festive symbols for how Americans celebrate their freedom that were won by the first generation of Americans centuries ago.
- Stars and Stripes. Okay, maybe the Stars and Stripes can get more American than steak and apple pie. Many American families keep American flags, large and small, in storage in their basement but will pull them out for Independence Day, draping them over their windows and homes.
- Fireworks! For many people, Independence Day is known as the day of fireworks. From individual households who put on their own fireworks show to communities and cities who host some of the most impressive fireworks displays known to man, the pinnacle of Independence Day is a nighttime show of sparklers, firecrackers, rockets, and pyrotechnics at its absolute finest, and for added effect to the backdrop of patriotic music.
- Celebrating Liberty and Freedom. Endless grid locking in the political arena always seems to be making weekly news on the front page, but on Independence Day, politicians of both parties will make appearances at public events as a way to show their support for the country. The Fourth of July is the one moment that the whole country comes together to celebrate their freedom and to put their political differences aside. In that regard, all government buildings and public schools are closed, and a strong majority of private business owners choose to close up shop as well. In addition, most public transportation systems are unable to work according to their usual schedules, not because they are shutting down to celebrate, but because the roads are so jam packed with converging travelers that they literally have no choice.
Why the Fourth of July?
You may be wondering why we celebrate one of our most important holidays on the Fourth of July.
In 1776, the original Thirteen Colonies separated legally from the British Empire on July 2nd. The gathering of colonies, known as the Second Continental Congress, voted to declare independence, and the subsequent document that made it official.
Originally, however, Independence Day wasn’t supposed to be on July 4th…it was to be on July 2nd when independence was officially declared. John Adams, one of the founding fathers, even wrote to his wife that he believed July the 2nd would be celebrated by Americans for centuries to come as the most important holiday in the new country’s history. Adams even correctly predicted that Americans would celebrate the holiday using shows, sports, games, and gunfire. If it weren’t for his incorrect prediction on the actual date of the holiday (to give Adams credit, he was off by a mere two days), one could possibly argue that Adams had the gift of long foresight.
The prediction Adams made ended up being proven wrong almost immediately. When America first celebrated its independence in 1776, it was celebrated by the majority of people on July Fourth, and not the second when independence was actually approved by Congress. The tradition has stuck ever since. Truth be told, both July 2nd and 4th are technically wrong days for the celebration, since it is widely believed that the Declaration wasn’t actually signed until a whole month later on the 2nd of August. Just imagine, if we actually followed history, if we celebrated the 2nd of August instead of the 4th of July!
A trivial fact about Independence Day is that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became the only individuals who both signed the Declaration and were later elected to the presidency, and both passed away many years later on July 4th, 1826, exactly fifty years after the Declaration had been signed.