So, do you know why we celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks?
I am a huge fan of the 4th of July. I totally geek out on it and look forward to the fireworks and what comes off the grill every year. The history and the battles leading up to it, both political and on the battlefield are fascinating.
The birth of our nation was no small feat by a group of people that wanted freedom from a ruler far away and taxation that did not serve their needs. Later we added the celebratory Grilling! (Check out my Patriotic Pork Party Menu for inspiration on your patio.) Oh, and did I mention the fireworks?
Most people don’t know the Fourth of July, July 4th or Independence Day, has only been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941. But the tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes way back to the American Revolution. Ok, if you are in Europe, you are probably chuckling right now. Some of you have houses older than our country!
We have a revolution going on now which we would not be able to have if our Founding Fathers had faltered at the beginning.
This holiday started to take shape on July 2nd, 1776, when the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence. Two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence. Festivities range from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. I am all about the grilling!
A Revolutionary Beginning
At the start of the Revolutionary War which broke out in April 1775, there were not many colonists who wanted complete independence from Great Britain. It was considered a pretty radical idea. However, as the battles continued into the middle of the following year, many more colonists began to favor “taxation without representation”.
According to History.com on June 7, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to decide on the case for liberty. The Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a formal motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
Jefferson and Adams, a dynamic duo
As with all political matters to this day, the vote was delayed. Congress wanted to draft a formal declaration of independence from Great Britain. On June 11, the Congress created a committee of five to draft the declaration. Over a period of seventeen days, a shockingly speedy process compared to how our current Congress operates even with computers and the internet, Thomas Jefferson, a young representative of Virginia, penned the declaration. He was provided oversight from John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut.
Jefferson and Adams had an interesting conversation about who was to pen this great document. According to Constitutionfacts.com, Adams provided this account of the debate in a letter.
Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, ‘I will not,’ ‘You should do it.’ ‘Oh! no.’ ‘Why will you not? You ought to do it.’ ‘I will not.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Reasons enough.’ ‘What can be your reasons?’ ‘Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.’ ‘Well,’ said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.’ ‘Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.’
Voting for Independence Day
Finally, on July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence. Two days later, on July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and it has been celebrated as the birth of American independence ever since.
Fun fact, when Great Britain first received the Declaration of Independence, it was treated as another annoyance from the colonies. Other letters had been sent but this was the first time they had the audacity to declare themselves free from Great Britain.
A Pouty Monarch
King George III viewed the colonies as an annoying little child who kept asking him for the same thing over and over. He thought they were a nuisance, and rumor has it hotly responded to this final insult with the following letter:
“You’ll be back like before
I will fight the fight and win the war
For your love, for your praise
And I’ll love you till my dying days
When you’re gone, I’ll go mad
So don’t throw away this thing we had
Cuz when push comes to shove
I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da”
(Kidding. Shout out to you Hamilton fans! Whoot-whoot! Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote Hamilton and the above lyrics from the hilarious song “You’ll be Back.” But I digress.)
Why do we celebrate July 4th with Fireworks?
History rewrites aside, the tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. This was the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.”
Oddly, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Many theories surround their deaths as they happened not only on the same day, but within five hours of each other. Some believe they willed themselves to make it to the 50th anniversary. Although both were reportedly in poor health, Adams was 90 when he passed and Jefferson was 83. These important figures had long and remarkable lives as two of our Founding Fathers.
The Fourth of July a Holiday at Last
The years passed and more cities joined in the tradition of celebrating our nation’s independence, by holding picnics, having parades, and of course providing fireworks displays. Although Boston was the first to designate July 4 an official holiday in 1783 it took a long time for it to become a federal holiday.
In fact, it didn’t happen for almost a hundred years. Finally, in 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. Then, in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.
Over the years, the political importance of this holiday seems to have declined. Politics aside, Independence Day remains an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism for all Americans.
I hope your observance of the 4th of July will be in celebration of our unique nation. Yes, America’s history is full of missteps and mistakes as is the imperfect history of all people on this planet. But, I have faith in the people of this nation and the ability to learn from our mistakes, grow in unity and change for the betterment of all of our people.
Celebrate the 4th of July
So, on the 4th of July I will decorate with red, white, and blue; invite friends over, and grill out. We will watch some awesome fireworks and celebrate what makes our nation great.
Additionally, I will give thanks and offer up a prayer for those who courageously fought to create this nation and and continue to fight t preserve it. I salute those who serve today to make our freedom possible.
P.S. Need a grill idea now? Check out this Patriotic Pork Party Menu! Not into ribs? Check out this Great Steak Cookout! And if you like what you are reading, subscribe and share this with friends! I’ll even send you some great free gifts!