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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July – Happy Birthday, America!


Independence Day Celebration in Centre Square, Philadelphia
(
a depiction of the celebrations of July 4th 1819, by John Lewis Krimmel)
The Fourth of July is a national holiday in the United States of America, annually observed to commemorate a very important occasion, the claiming of the country’s independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. With the inception of democracy across the nation, the Fourth of July later became popularly known as the birthday of America. It has since become a tradition to mark this celebration with pompous events such as parades, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, athletic games, reunions and most of all, grandiose fireworks displays in many public areas in every state. 

Separation of Thirteen Colonies

The history of the independence of the United States can be traced back to the separation of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution, which took place on July 2, 1776. At this time the Second Continental Congress gave its nod to a declaration of independence from Great Britain with Richard Henry Lee from Virginia State as its proponent.

This is a high-resolution image of the United States Declaration of Independence

When the voting for independence was done, Congress gave more thought on the Declaration of Independence, a formal announcement containing the rationale of the act of granting the independence as written by Thomas Jefferson of the Committee of five. After a brief discussion in the House, the Declaration was signed and approved on July 4 of same year.

Date of Declaration vs. Date of Resolution


Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1800

There was an initial debate on the actual date of U.S. Independence because of the two-day difference from the signing of the resolution to the real date of declaration. It is clarified that Americans mark July 4 as their Independence Day based on the Declaration made on this day itself as against July 2 when Congress approved the Resolution.

Although the date of the Independence Day has been resolved, there were still more disputes among historians that the Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, almost a month after the adoption of the resolution. All these arguments notwithstanding, American Independence Day continued to be celebrated every Fourth of July.

Initial Celebrations – Setting the Trend

The commemoration of America’s Independence Day had always been marked with grandiosity from the first years after its declaration up to present times. A year after Independence was declared, in 1977, thirteen gunshots were discharged in the morning and evening in Bristol, Rhode Island. On the other hand, a 13-gun salute was set off in Philadelphia on the first year anniversary of America’s birthday. In addition to the gun firing, toasts, speeches, military parades, music and ultimately fireworks displays were conducted. These forms of celebrations had been maintained and kept on to present times.

Keeping Up with the Times – Fourth of July Celebration Today

Since the Fourth of July coincides with summer, many outdoor activities are performed to celebrate the event. Today, this important occasion is appropriated by most families in America as a day of reunion when everyone shares time together to go on picnics at the beach or watch special games in the stadium.


RED SEA (July 4, 2009) Sailors celebrate Independence Day with a steel beach picnic
on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

The usual routine for the day long celebration starts with flag raising ceremonies in the morning, an opportunity that many politicians grab so they can be join their constituents in celebrating. With their speeches, politicians honor the heroes and praise the laws, history and heritage of the nation through speeches.

Highlight of Celebration

4th of July fireworks over Seattle


The day-long outdoor activities finally culminate with the much awaited highlight of the day, the magnificent fireworks exhibit that are launched in many parts of the country, particularly in squares of key cities and top tourist spots such as the sprawling beaches and parks.

Decorations adorn the streets, homes, buildings, town squares and recreation grounds. The American flag is flown everywhere with their miniature copies displayed in houses and cars. Parades are conducted usually in the morning, and everywhere festive colors of yellow, red, blue, green and the like are flown with much style and pomposity. Patriotic songs like “God Bless America”, “My Country ‘Tis to Thee” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” are sung to accompany the grand fireworks.

Tourists and vacationists join local folks in the revelry by putting up bonfires the night before the Fourth of July. Most celebrations are done in the outdoors so that everyone can see the lighting of fireworks and share the bonfires together. At this time of the year, major cities and beaches in the country are bustling with people who partake of the celebration. Times Square in New York particularly becomes alive for the Independence Day holiday.

The largest fireworks every lit on the Fourth of July had been recorded to be held in 2009 with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics used in the set up. In other states, there are also festivities of fireworks such as in San Francisco Bay in San Francisco City, Charles River in Boston and Mission Bay in San Diego.

Coincidence

Remarkably, the Fourth of July marks a coincidence of death incidents of some presidents of the country. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who were the only two signatories of the Declaration of Independence and later became presidents of the United States died on July 4, 1826. Meanwhile James Monroe who was another founding father died on July 4, 1831 and Calvin Coolidge who was the 30th president was born on July 4, 1872. 

The American Dream

The United States has served as symbol of democracy before other nations. With the declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, the nation had become the land of opportunity to many people all over the globe. As it is stated in the national anthem America is known to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.  With this image, United States has remained to be the favorite place to settle and work by millions of people aspiring for a niche overseas.

Diverse Culture

Because of the influx of migrants over the years, United States is now populated by various races that have embraced the American culture and have become citizens enjoying the rights and privileges of America citizens. Although English is the predominant language among settlers, many of them still retain their mother tongue.


Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons




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