American Independence Day

By Nomadic Matt | Published July 4th, 2008

July 4th Fireworks
Today’s July 4th, American Independence Day. Across the nation, Americans are taking work off and celebrating the day we declared independence from British rule. Since it falls on a Monday this year, everyone is extra thrilled about the three-day weekend. Celebrations, fireworks, and barbecues are taking place in every corner of the land. Just like on Memorial Day, today’s blog will be about the holiday!

History of July 4th
On July 4, 1776, British colonists declared their independence from the crown. Tensions had been high for years as the crown imposed laws and restrictions that the colonists felt violated their rights as Englishmen. Prior to 1763, colonists enjoyed great autonomy from the King, but after the war with the French, the King found himself in debt. The King decided that the colonists’ days of autonomy were over. In 1763, he restricted their expansion west. No need to get into any more wars with the French.

Over the ensuing years, he and Parliament passed a slew of laws designed to tax the colonists so that they paid for their own defense and the cost of the war with the French. It was to protect them, right? They should pay!

Well, the colonists weren’t too happy about this. Though subjects of the King, they had enjoyed what historians call the period of salutary neglect. They were allowed to do what they wanted with little interference, as long as they kept the goods flowing to England. The colonists weren’t too keen on now being told what to do. To make matters worse, they felt their rights as Englishmen were being violated by being taxed without their consent. “No taxation without representation” was the catchphrase. They might not have minded being taxed if they’d had a say in it. The crown also quartered troops in their homes, which violated the age-old principle that a man’s home was his private domain.

So fast forward a bit to 1776. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were old news. The colonists were in rebellion now. Despite still viewing themselves as Englishmen, their only logical course of action was independence, though for some it came with a heavy heart.

Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, and on July 4th, the signing was complete. We declared that “in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” The colonists celebrated the day with fireworks, gunfire, and partying.

The tradition continued informally until 1941, when Congress declared the day a federal holiday. The day has always had major importance to Americans and is our biggest secular holiday.

July 4th Celebrations
Americans celebrate the holiday in various ways. Since the declaration was first read in 1776, July 4th has been synonymous with festivities and fireworks. (And, of course, alcohol too!)

Beach (Outdoors)
If you live near the beach and the weather’s nice, you’ll be there. Americans love spending this day at the beach. Up and down the coasts, beaches are packed with people looking to catch some rays before the night’s fireworks. Farther inland, many people head out to the woods, lakes, rivers, and national parks to relax, get in touch with nature, socialize, and celebrate.

BBQ
Fourth of July BBQs are as American as apple pie, and if you’re not having one, at least ten people you know are. This hugely popular tradition gets everyone together for two of the holiday’s most important pastimes: watching fireworks and drinking. BBQs are a must for anyone wanting to celebrate the holiday.

Parades
Most cities and towns have Fourth of July parades, where local organizations and groups honor the country, its history, and its servicemen. Many of the bigger ones have historical re-enactors as well as old fife-and-drum bands.

Fireworks
Nothing says you love your country more than blowing up a small piece of it. Pretty much every city in America has a fireworks celebration. People across America have their own celebrations in their backyards. You’ll hear the sound of M80s all day long. When the sun goes down, everyone trickles out from their BBQs to watch their town’s fireworks. (The best BBQs are the ones where you can see the fireworks without having to leave the party!) The biggest and most famous fireworks displays are in Boston, Washington DC, New York, and Philadelphia.

Go out and celebrate the founding of America. If you’re not American, go hang out with some and join in the fun! It’s a good excuse to socialize. So HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

Want to read more about America? For more information on the United States, visit my country and city guides to US travel.

comments 8 Comments

Happy 4th, Matt! You didn’t tell us how you’ll be celebrating!!

Peace,
Julie

NomadicMatt

@Julie: I’m working all weekend! Have to earn those dollars since I’m leaving in 9 days!

Cristina

Hi Matt,

Congratulations for your site! I have to say that I’m really impressed!
Since I became addicted to reading travel blogs, I just found yours theses days, and I wish I had more free time to read it all!! =)
It is really inspiring…

It’s nice to know more about the 4th of July and why it is so important to North Americans!
In Brazil our Independence Day is on the 7th of September, but people don’t have their own celebrations, I mean.. the country has, each city has.. but not each home.
I guess because it’s holiday… and Brazilians just want to go to the beach! hehehe

Nice to “meet” you, mate..

NomadicMatt

@christine: thanks for visiting the site. It’s good to meet you too. I quite enjoy your site!

FleeceTraveler

The history of Independence Day succinctly described in 3 paragraphs – great job! Do you enjoy history as much as traveling?

Congratulations. That quick lesson in history was very useful to me :)

What I’d love about the 4th July are the fireworks!

Thanks for the “101” on American Independence Day, you’ve added to my “learn something new everyday” personal pledge! Just wanted to add that we, in New England, have a 4th of July parade of note in Bristol, R.I. I believe the Bristol Fourth of July parade in the oldest continuously running fourth of July parade in the country, having started in 1785. I’ve been to a few of the parades here, and they are flat out spectacular: lots of spirit, floats, music and fun and games — more than you would typically see at a small town 4th of July parade. Bristol, sometimes called “America’s most patriotic town,” even has a red, white and blue median strip on its main street!

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