The American Independence Day, or Declaration of Independence, is celebrated on the Fourth of July every year. It was on July 4, 1776 that the United States of America was born as an independent nation.On July 4th, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which announced the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain. The Continental Congress had been working on it for a while and the draft of the declaration was submitted on July 2nd, when all the changes and edits were agreed upon.
Thus, July 4th 1776 became a federal holiday marking the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which declared that the thirteen American colonies were to be considered a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer under the rule of the British Empire.
The handwritten copy of the declaration was signed in August, a copy of which is currently displayed in Washington DC’s National Archives. The official printer to the Continental Congress, John Dunlap, created the initial printed versions of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on the night of July 4th 1776. Once the Congress adopted the Declaration, a committee gave the manuscript document to Dunlap for printing, and the next day, on July 5th, copies were send by Congress members to the assemblies, conventions and committees, including to the commanders of continental troops.
Why is the Fourth of July a national holiday?
Initially the date of the Declaration of Independence was not celebrated as a holiday, since it was still new and there was a lot of other activity taking place in young America. The Declaration became a matter of controversy in the 1790s, during which time partisan conflicts turned bitter. The Democratic-Republicans party lauded the Declaration, but the party of Federalists felt the Declaration was too French in nature and very anti-British, which conflicted with their current policies. But in the aftermath of the war in 1812, the Federalist Party disintegrated and new parties in the 1820s and 1830s believed themselves to be inheritors of the Democratic-Republicans. Once again, printed copies of the Declaration were distributed bearing the date of July 4th 1776.
As the years passed by, the Fourth of July began to be celebrated frequently. In 1870, which was nearly a century after the Declaration was drafted, Congress declared July 4th as a national holiday.
Today the Fourth of July is a federal holiday. Typical festivities on this day range from parades and firework displays to concerts and intimate family gatherings.
For expats in the USA, here is a guide to Fourth of July Celebrations.
Expats can visit the nation’s capital of Washington DC for the annual National Independence Day Parade. This is a large parade that is open to all, which features floats, bands and military demonstrations. The parade usually starts at 11.45am. In the evening, there is a free concert at the capitol followed by fireworks.
Expats in DC can also visit important landmarks like the White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Washington DC is also home to the Smithsonian and the National Gallery. The city’s three-kilometer long lawn in the center of Washington DC, called the National Mall, is the perfect place for fireworks displays. During the day there are military parades and you can also take in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which was started in 1967, and is an international exhibition of culture that takes place every year during the two weeks around the Fourth of July.
Boston too has a major Independence Day Celebration. Boston is among the country’s oldest cities and is steeped in historical significance. On the Fourth of July, apart from fireworks displays, there is also the Boston Pops Orchestra that plays patriotic songs. Expats living in or traveling to Boston for Fourth of July celebrations can also visit other historically important sites such as the Old South Meeting House, the place where the Revolutionists met before the Boston Tea Party. Another historical landmark to visit is the Paul Revere House, where the American patriot Paul Revere resided during the American Revolution.
Another destination where national celebrations take center stage is Philadelphia, where Independence Day celebrations begin with a series of inspirational events in the city’s Historic District, such as Celebration of Freedom where everyday heroes are honored during patriotic observances at the Independence Hall. There is also the United States of America Independence Day Parade in which thousands of participants from all across the nation gather. The Parade begins at 5th and Chestnut streets and features a range of floats along with live entertainment.
Philadelphia is also the place to go if you want to take in some historic re-enactments. Various historic scenes are acted out at the Independence Hall. There are also readings of the Declaration of Independence. For another dose of patriotism, expats can visit the iconic Liberty Bell, which is a symbol of American independence. Visitors can also head to the Party on the Parkway, which features five blocks of free entertainment such as outdoor games, arts and crafts, and a zipline. There are also musical acts, children’s activities, food and cultural events that showcase Philadelphia’s various nationalities and neighborhoods.
Plan a trip to New York to witness the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, the country’s largest Independence Day display. The event is now in its 41st year. Watch the renowned New York skyline come to life with a barrage of lights, sounds, shapes and colors in celebration of the nation’s independence. The masses gather in the park below the Brooklyn Bridge to watch the fireworks display. There are other things to do here too such as visiting the playground and carousels, and browsing the art installations.
Remember to reserve time in the evening for the nation’s biggest fireworks display. This annual show features nearly 40,000 fireworks that are set off accompanied by patriotic music. The spectacular fireworks display over Manhattan are set off from barges on the Hudson River. For some of the best views, head to West Side Highway, which is occupied by the crowds of spectators, or the waterfront around Battery Park City. You can even take it up a notch by hopping aboard a cruise ship for some great food, drinks and dancing. During the day, there’s the entertaining hot dog eating contest at Coney Island.
Bristol, Rhode Island has a parade that was started by a Revolutionary War veteran in 1785. The parade winds its way through the coastal town, and is the oldest Independence Day celebration in the USA. The main event is the 2.5-mile parade which features floats, firemen, cheerleaders and a Miss Fourth of July. During this time the town’s population rises from 23,000 to 100,000. There are also marching bands and competitions wherein locals decorate their houses to win prizes.
North of Boston, the picturesque coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, hosts the Marblehead Festival of Arts that is on during the entire weekend. There are also events such as a sand sculpture contest and the unique Horribles Parade, a satirical event and a New England tradition in which children and pets participate in decorated bikes and wagons. There’s usually a fireworks display at the bay later in the day.
There are fireworks displays or parades in most localities. You can find details of these online or in local newspapers. Usually there are special areas meant for watching both the fireworks displays and the parades, although the fireworks are likely to be visible from most parts of the city. Military bases too have fireworks displays.
Various concerts are held on the 4th of July featuring local bands and orchestras. Some famous musicians and bands also perform. You can find out which bands are playing by checking the local concert venues or by contacting the organizations that host these concerts, such as the local orchestra or military bases. There may also be concerts held in the park by the parks and recreation department.
Another Fourth of July tradition and an American national pastime is attending a baseball game. You can take in the game at a Major League Ballpark or cheer on the local team or even root for your child’s little league team. Many games are followed by fireworks. You can even organize your own game of baseball with friends at the local park.
Many churches, military bases, companies and other organizations host community picnics and cookouts on the Fourth of July. Visit one of these in your area for a little bit of fun. The food is likely to be typical 4th of July dishes such as hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob, salads, baked beans and patriotic-themed desserts. These events may also feature activities such as food eating contests and water gun fights.
Celebrations at home
A bonfire is one of the ways in which you can celebrate the Fourth of July at home. Although not traditional, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is often celebrated with a bonfire, along with fireworks and ringing bells. Firstly, check the fire codes in the area where you will be building the bonfire. To light your bonfire, first make sure to clear the area of anything that could catch fire. Create a depression in a circle by digging the ground and place stones along the outer rim; this will contain the fire within the circle. Have water or a fire extinguisher ready to put out any wayward sparks.
Fireworks are synonymous with the Fourth of July and if instead of watching the displays from afar, you want to create one of your own, stock up on your own fireworks. However, big displays of fireworks may be disallowed in most cities, while in some cities, fireworks are banned. Outside the city limits, you can create your own fireworks display and partake in this popular Fourth of July pastime.
Make sure to take safety precautions before shooting fireworks. Create a fire-safe area by removing anything that is flammable, including grass and dead leaves. You can even sprinkle the area with water to prevent it from catching sparks. Have a fire extinguisher handy and make sure to use lighting devices that are longer, for instance, a fireplace match or a grill lighter. Read the instructions first and light one firework at a time. Avoid leaning over when lighting the fireworks. Before you plan your fireworks party, check the local regulations regarding lighting your own fireworks. There are sometimes laws against the use of fireworks for personal use. Some states also have specific times during which you are allowed to use fireworks, such as until midnight.
The Fourth of July is the ideal time to revel in some American pride. This is the day when America got its independence from Britain and it is tradition to wear and display American symbols. It is common to see people dressed in red, blue and white. It’s also the day when people fly American flags and cover the walls with stars and stripes.
An excellent way to celebrate the Fourth of July at home with family is to celebrate by making patriotic crafts. This is an especially fun activity if you have children. You can make anything from American flag lapel pins and flowerpots, to wreaths and banners in patriotic colors.
As an expat in the USA, one of the best things you can do to strengthen your newfound friendships and associations is to hold your own cookout. Invite friends and colleagues over for a feast of traditional Fourth of July foods such as hot dogs, a barbeque and burgers. You can even host a potluck, which will reduce the stress of hosting a party on your own.
Have you celebrated the Fourth of July as an expat in America? Share your experiences in the comments below!