Well, July 4th is the date in 1776 on which the Second Continental Congress ratified the Delcaration of Independence, the document drawn up to explain their decision to vote in favor of independence from England, which had actually happened two days earlier, on July second.
In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, on the third of July. the following statement:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Wikipedia has an interesting list of Observances for Independence Day, dating from as early as 1777.
*In 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired, once at morning and again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island.
*Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
*In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
*In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5.
*In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.
*In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held a celebration of July 4 with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled “The Psalm of Joy”.
*In 1791 the first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred.
*In 1820 the first Fourth of July celebration was held in Eastport, Maine which remains the largest in the state.
*In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
*In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday
Of course, for many Americans, the holiday is just an opportunity to visit, picnic or
bar-b-que, and to watch fireworks, but for others it is a time to remember those events which lead to the birth of The United States of America. It’s a great time to play or sing some of the patriotic songs of our nation. I love to watch the Boston Pops on July 4th whenever possible. Another tradition in our family is to watch the film 1776.
Whatever you do today, I hope you enjoy your holiday!
Note: the graphics today are courtesy of Ace ClipArt.