July 4th, the birth of American independence

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Variously known as the Fourth of July and Independence Day, July 4th has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical. By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in Thomas Paine’s bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published in early 1776. On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee–including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York–to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.happy-july-4th-banner

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” On July 4th, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.

The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism, history.com reports.

Fireworks, the celebration’s hard core

Fireworks are an essential part of the United States’ Independence Day celebration. Every year, a third of the country watches one of more than 14,000 fireworks shows. That makes the fireworks industry happy: Its total revenues nearly doubled to $965 million between 1999 and 2012, according to eJournal USA.

With a computer chip in almost every shell, sparkling light shows have become more elaborate. Computer-controlled blasts can spell words and form images like peace signs or smiley faces. With apps available for iPhones and Android phones, people who want to avoid the crowds can create virtual shows at home on smartphones or tablets: By touching the screen, they determine where a firework explodes.

One of the biggest shows in all of the country is the 39th Annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks, which takes over a year to plan, a crew of 30 around nine days to prepare, and includes 50 tons of equipment, 15 miles of cabling and 1,200 lines of computer programmed cues – all to entertain 3 million people watching 50,000 fireworks burst overhead (live in New York City, and millions more across the USA) from two locations along the East River over the course of 25 minutes.burger us

Burgers …

Typically more than 150 million hot dogs are consumed in this country over the holiday weekend, and while it is harder to pin down burgers, which aren’t sold individually, it’s fair to guess that the number is at least as high – in the week leading up to the holiday, nearly a billion pounds of chicken, beef and pork will be sold, reads USAToday.com.parade-bristol

…and parades

Established by a Revolutionary War veteran in 1785, the parade through the coastal town of Bristol, Rhode Island is the oldest Fourth of July celebration in America. During the 2.5-mile parade the town’s population of 23,000 swells to 100,000. Floats carrying cheerleaders, firemen, and even a Miss Fourth of July, glide down the streets, marching bands rumble by, while locals compete by decorating their clapboard Colonial houses to win prizes.

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