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Why is Independence Day on July 4?
Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July fourth? We all know it has something to do with July 4, 1776, but what actually happened on that day?
Is it the day we started the American Revolution? No, we did that the previous year, in April. Is it the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence? No, he wrote the first draft in June. Is it the day the Continental Congress officially decided to declare independence? No, they did that on July 2! How about the date it was signed? That was August 2. Was it the date it was delivered to Great Britain? No, that wasn’t until November. So why do we have the fireworks on July 4?
Happy Second of August?
Believe it or not, July fourth is the day the Continental Congress approved the final wording. That’s right, after editing and changing it for a couple of days, the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776. So we celebrate our independence every year on July fourth — not on the day we declared it, not on the day the war ended (which wasn’t until 1783), not even on the day we signed or delivered the official declaration, but on the day the wording was approved.
If we celebrated the date of the signing instead, we’d be wishing everyone a happy Second of August instead of a happy Fourth of July. We celebrate Constitution Day on September 17 of each year — that is the date of the signing, not the date it was approved. But since the official, signed Declaration of Independence as well as the printed copies that were circulated all have July 4, 1776 printed on them, that date became associated with the birth of our nation.
In Philadelphia, the public heard the first reading of the Declaration on July 8, 1776. Band music and bells accompanied the reading in Independence Square. The following year, Philadelphia celebrated Independence Day on July 4 with bonfires, bells and fireworks, and Congress adjourned for the day. Citizens watched as the sky lit up in a grand display and the fireworks ended by firing 13 cannons to symbolize the 13 states in the union. Since the new nation was still in the midst of war, the celebration served as a morale booster and raised spirits.
Other towns caught on to the idea, and the custom grew to include parades, speeches, picnics, contests, military displays and fireworks. In 1870, Congress established Independence Day as a holiday, and in 1938 it was reaffirmed as a paid holiday for federal workers. Every July communities come together nationwide to enjoy parades, fireworks, picnics, and patriotic performances.
Although the actual date of celebrating may seem perplexing, we celebrate American Independence on July 4 every year. This day stands for our freedom and the birth of our nation as independent. It is the official birthday of the United States of America.
Happy birthday, America.