Fourth of July 2024: Celebrate with History, Traditions, and Recipes (2024)

Happy Independence Day! How did our founders envision celebrating this all-important American holiday? You might be surprised. Find out what’s special about the 4th ofJuly.

When Is Independence Day ThisYear?

On the Fourth of July, the United States observes a federal holiday honoring the Declaration of Independence. If the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, the federally observed holiday is the following Monday, July 5. If the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, the observed holiday for most (but not all) federal employees is Friday, July3.

What Day of the Week is July 4?
YearIndependence Day (U.S.)
2024Thursday, July 4
2025Friday, July 4
2026Saturday, July 4
2027Sunday, July 4

A Brief History of IndependenceDay

We think of July 4, 1776, as a day representing the Declaration of Independence,America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom, and the document upon which the nation’s founding principles were established.But July 4 wasn’t the day that independence was declared. Nor the day that the Declaration was officially signed.

So what did happen on July 4, 1776?
This holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies on July 4, 1776. On the 4th, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. This is the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America.

Here are more dates toremember:

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  • April 19, 1775 was the start of the American Revolution.During the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Mass.), the first shots were fired between colonists and British troops. After these first military conflicts, tension between Britain and her American colonists continued tomount.
  • On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted for independence fromBritain.
  • Two days later, on July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, which had been drafted by Thomas Jefferson (back in June) and edited by John Adams and BenjaminFranklin.
  • On July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration took place at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later that same day, other readings occurred in Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania. Printer John Dunlap made about 200 copies of the Declaration, with the date of July 4. Known as the“Dunlap Broadsides,” these were distributed throughout the 13colonies.
  • However, it wasn’t until August 2, 1776,that the Declaration was officially signed. John Hanco*ck, president of the Congress, was the first of 56 delegates to sign this enlarged version, writing in big, boldletters.
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On August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, the Declaration of Independence was madeofficial.

How Did Our Founders Envision Independence DayCelebrations?

John Adams envisioned the celebration as one filled with fun, games, and fireworks—not an occasion for displaying military strength (as one might expect)!

On July 3, 1776, he wrote these words to his wife Abigail, describing the way that he hoped future Americans would celebrate theirindependence.

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfullydo…’

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forevermore.”

On July 18, 1777, an issue of the Virginia Gazettedescribes the July 4 celebration inPhiladelphia:

“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness wasuniversal.”

A number of years passed before celebrations of the Fourth of July became more common. Interestingly, the deaths of John Adams (and Thomas Jefferson) seemed to promote the idea of July 4 as an important date to be celebrated. And it was almost a century later (in 1870) that Congress declared July 4 a nationalholiday.

What’s really special about America’s celebration of freedom is it was quite different for its time, focusing on the joys of freedom.Many countries have emulated this spirit of celebration eversince.

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Refresh Your Memory:The Declaration ofIndependence

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from Britishrule.

The document was originally written by Thomas Jefferson, but Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, along with Jefferson then worked together to make changes. The final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, but the actual signing of the final document took place on August 2,1776.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence (U.S.1776):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety andHappiness.

We invite you to refresh your memory as an annual tradition. Read atranscription of the complete text of the Declaration.

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More Fourth of JulyHistory

  • July 4, 1776: Thomas Jefferson noted in his “Weather Memorandum Book” that the weather was cloudy, the temperature76ºF.
  • July 4, 1826: Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—signers of the Declaration of Independence who each later became president—died on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of thedeclaration.
  • July 4, 1884: The Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the United States by the people ofFrance.
  • July 4, 1911: It was a hot Fourth of July in New England. All-time state records were set in Nashua, New Hampshire (106°F), and Vernon, Vermont(105°F).

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4th of JulyTrivia

While we celebrate with fireworks, let’s not forget the freedom that our founding fathers declared to the world over two centuries ago. Here are some fun facts you may not know about theholiday:

Q. Why is the name “John Hanco*ck” synonymous with “your signature”?
A. Hanco*ck’s bold signature on the Declaration of Independence dwarfed the signatures of the other signers. Legend says that Hanco*ck wanted the king of England to see the rebellious signature without having to wear hisspectacles!

Q. When did America declare independence?
A. Congress ruled in favor of independence on July 2, 1776. Two days later, on July 4, Congress accepted Jefferson’s declaration document. Nonetheless, John Adams thought July 2 should be IndependenceDay.

Q. How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4?
A. Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4,1776—John Hanco*ck, president of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, secretary of theCongress.

Q. On what day did most people sign the Declaration of Independence?
A. August 2,1776.

Q. When did Independence Day become a national holiday?
A.The Fourth of July was not declared a federal holiday until1938!

Q. Is anything written on the back of the Declaration of Independence?
A. Yes, but not a treasure map like a certain favorite film suggests! The message “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4thJuly 1776” is written upside down on the back of the Declaration ofIndependence.

Q. Where is the Declaration of Independence document today?
A. Thomas Jefferson’s original draft was lost and the one eventually signed is the “engrossed” document. It is kept at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for all to see.
Of the 200 printed copies of the Declaration made by John Dunlap (the Dunlap Broadsides), only 27 are accounted for. One of these was found in the back of a picture frame at a tag sale and sold at auction for $8.14 million to television producer Norman Lear in 2000. It traveled the country on display to the public for tenyears.

Q. Where was George Washington when the Declaration of Independence was written?
A.In July 1776, Washington was in New York with his troops. On July 9, he received his copy of the Declaration with a note from John Hanco*ck telling Washington to share the news with his soldiers. The men were so excited that they rushed over to Bowling Green and tore down the statue of King George III. Shortly after this, the British, as Washington expected, attacked the colonists, and the American Revolution was under way. The colonists fought eight long, hard years (1775–83) for independence fromBritain.

After the war, George Washington hoped to retire and return to Mount Vernon, Virginia. Instead, in 1789, the electors unanimously voted him in as the first president of the United States. Because it was such an honor, and he felt a great duty to his country, he accepted. He departed Mount Vernon on April 16 and arrived in New York City on April 30 for his inauguration. As he took his oath, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall, the crowd broke into cheers. The members of his first Cabinet included Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state and Alexander Hamilton as secretary of thetreasury.

Celebrating the Fourth ofJuly

In the United States, Independence Day is a federal holiday traditionally observed with parades, concerts, outdoor food, and fireworks. Here are five ways to prep for the Fourth ofJuly!

  1. Raise the Flag:If you don’t have a flagpole, consider a front-entry flag!Before you hang Old Glory, check the American Flag Guidelines so that you can proudly and properly display yourflag.
  2. Stay Casual:Remember, this isn’t a “fancy” dinner. Take a look at our Fourth of July recipes to have a deliciouspicnic or barbecue—and for a list of patrioticdesserts!
  3. Play Games:We don’t care if you’re young or just young at heart. Get out the cornhole and horseshoe games, the croquet, or just a backgammon set if you’re hanging out on the porch! If you’re going to a 4th of July party, bring your own games, as it can be a few hours until fireworksstart.
  4. Fireworks:Whether it’s simply poppers, snaps, and snakes, OR a bigger fireworks display, keep up the tradition. Kids LOVE sparklers. Hand them out one by one to enjoy the magic. Of course, always have adults nearby for safety, as well as a fireextinguisher.
  5. Beat the Heat and the Bugs: Don’t forget to have sunscreen, sunshades, lots of drinking water, and bug spray on hand if you’ll be outside. See our non-toxic repellents and easy pantry remedies for mosquito bites.

How do YOU celebrate the 4th of July? Fireworks? Barbecue? Both? Let us know in the comments—and have a Happy Independence Day,America!

Fourth of July 2024: Celebrate with History, Traditions, and Recipes (2024)
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