Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is a federally recognized holiday which celebrates the United States adopting the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776. This embracing of the Declaration of Independence is today celebrated with fireworks, parades, carnivals, concerts, family reunions and all types of activities.
Along with being one of the most popular holidays, Independence Day also has one of the clearest, most definitive histories of any holiday in the U.S. While the early years of most holidays such as Memorial Day or Halloween have somewhat uncertain origins, Independence Day was one that has a definitive date as a starting point.
The History of Independence Day
While battles between the Colonialist and British forces had been going on for over a year, the actual legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2nd, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress approved the resolution of independence which was first proposed by Richard Henry Lee who represented Virginia. After the voting was complete, the Congress then debated the actual wording of the Declaration of Independence which had been prepared under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson.
Congress took just over a day to complete its debate and approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 which is the day we now recognize as the official separation from Great Britain. Interestingly enough, John Adams who played a pivotal role in the independence movement wrote to his wife predicting that America will celebrate the day that the colonies separated themselves from Great Britain with parades, shows, sports, guns, bonfires and all types of celebrations. His prediction turned out to be quite accurate, save for the fact he believed that July 2nd, not July 4th would be the day of celebration.
Interestingly enough, many historians believe that the Declaration of Independence was fully adopted on August 2nd, not July 4th. Still, the celebration of Independence Day on July 4th has been an American tradition starting the very next year even while the colonies struggled with obtaining their freedom. When the American Revolution ended in victory in 1783, the celebration of July 4th as Independence Day grew in stature as well. However, it was in that same year that Moravians who lived in Salem, North Carolina held a formal celebration of July 4th that included “The Psalm of Joy”, a music program written by Johann Friedrich Peter which is still celebrated to this day.
The actual term “Independence Day” was not recorded as being used until 1791. Over the next 80 years, Independence Day was celebrated as an unofficial holiday until 1870 when the U.S. Congress declared it an unpaid holiday for federal workers. By 1938, Congress changed it to a paid federal holiday and it has been so ever since.
Today, Independence Day is celebrated across the U.S. much in the same way that John Adams envisioned the holiday with the inclusion of fireworks. Over the years, Independence Day has brought Americans back to the root of their country and the causes in which the colonies fought for their freedom. That feeling of freedom and independence is what the holiday is all about.
Rumor Has It …
… that Will Smith and Bill Pullman were integral characters in the original Independence Day, riding horseback and shouting expletives to the Brits while eating (and drooling) meat pudding.