U.S. throws birthday party, over 300 million people invited
By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
| | July 03, 2007
MaMARINE CORPS BASE, CAMP H M SMITH, Hawaii --
There are many holidays throughout the year celebrating the individual beliefs, heritage and traditions of the people of the United States.
However, there is one holiday on the calendar that celebrates the U.S. in its entirety.
For every citizen of the U.S., Independence Day is a day of remembrance, not just for the inception of one document or even one singular event, but for every moment in this country’s young history.
The Fourth of July is a chance to celebrate the shared memories and experiences of 231 years of growth, from 13 independent colonies to 50 unified states.
While the meaning behind the date may be concrete, the date itself, however iconic it may be, is considered by many to be a bit arbitrary.
Before July 4, 1776 many New Englanders were fighting the British, some as early as April 1775. It wasn’t even until June 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress secretly made the first motion for independence. Nearly a month later on July 2, 1776 the congress voted unanimously for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
What made the fourth so special was the fact that the twelve colonies voted on, adopted and released a copy of the Declaration of Independence signed by only one member of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, who was the congress president at the time.
According to historians, this is why the fourth was selected as the official birth date of the U.S.
The first, yet unofficial, celebration of Independence Day was held July 8, 1776 by the people of Philadelphia with bonfires and public readings of the declaration.
The first official celebration took place July 4, 1777, again in Philadelphia. This time the celebration was much more elaborate with a 13-gun-salute, an official feast for the Continental Congress, parades, parties, speeches and festive red, white and blue decorations adorning houses and ships.
General George Washington celebrated the holiday by giving his soldiers a double ration of rum and ordering artillery salutes.
The Fourth of July, which became known as Independence Day in 1791, would continue to be celebrated throughout the years even though it was not made an official unpaid federal holiday until 1870. It became a paid holiday in 1941.
Decades later the meaning of the celebration remains unchanged. While the methods of celebration vary from region-to-region and person-to-person there are a few standards.
The most recognizable is fireworks. Fireworks shows are held in nearly every state and are said to be a symbol of the United State’s military struggle over the British during the Revolutionary War.
The second most recognizable festivity is the “All American” barbecue and picnic. Of course, the foods eaten at these events will vary from table to table, showcasing another aspect unique to America, its diversity.
This Independence Day, the citizens of the U.S. will continue the 231-year-old tradition of celebrating the birth of their country.
Whether their families have a history dating back to the very beginning, or they achieved their citizenship on July 3, 2007, they are invited to this country’s birthday party.