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Happy Birthday America! Why Independence Day Is So Important

The purpose of Independence Day, and fun ways to celebrate it.

Jun 27, 2021

It’s almost the 4th of July—Woohoo!  Have you ever wondered why we have parades, parties and fireworks on July 4th, or Independence Day?  Not because summer has begun, but because our country began—243 years ago!

The importance of Independence Day

Independence Day is one of the most important holidays in our country.  On July 4th, 1776, the original 13 Colonies announced to the world that they will become their own country, the United States of America.  They did this when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and adopted the Declaration of Independence, which states that Great Britain will no longer rule over them.  Why did the colonies want to separate from Great Britain?  Britain’s King George III forced the 13 Colonies to pay taxes to him, but he wouldn’t give them any power in the British government.  The colonies knew that this “taxation without representation” was unfair.

Celebrate with red, white and blue.Celebrate with red, white and blue.

Independence Day was first observed on July 8th, 1776 in Philadelphia with 13-gun salutes, a special dinner, speeches, prayers, music, parades and fireworks.  When America turned a year old on July 4th, 1777, the people of Philadelphia celebrated by lighting bonfires, placing candles in their windows, ringing church bells and shooting cannons. 

4th of July celebrations eventually spread throughout the young country.  Americans flew the flag, had parades, picnics, and games, and held public readings of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1870, almost a hundred years after the Declaration was written, Congress first declared July 4th to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas.  In 1938, Congress declared July 4th a federal paid holiday. 

Celebrate the holiday by attending a patriotic parade.Celebrate the holiday by attending a patriotic parade.Courtesy of S. Pakhrin

These days, we still commemorate our nation’s birth with parades, picnics, fireworks and music.  Families and communities come together to celebrate national unity, and everything that makes America special.  What a perfect day to put aside differences with others and embrace the ideas that our founding fathers dreamed for America—That we should be a land where every person has the right to life, liberty and happiness, a land founded on freedom for every citizen.  

Throw a barbecue party with friends.Throw a barbecue party with friends.Courtesy of T. Kirsty

What are some cool ways to celebrate America’s birthday?

  • Throw a 4th of July party with friends.
  • Have a pie-eating contest, a water balloon fight, or play a game in the back yard with family members.
  • Check out the kids’ TV series "Liberty’s Kids" to learn more about our history or watch a patriotic movie like National Treasure.
  • Draw pictures in the air with sparklers—safely, of course. 

Attend a fireworks display.Attend a fireworks display.Courtesy of Jingda Chen

Impress your friends and family with these other facts:

  • John Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence.  His famous signature is the largest of all the signatures.  56 men from 13 colonies signed the document.
  • The Declaration of Independence was actually written on July 2nd, 1776.
  • Massachusetts was the first state to make Independence Day an official state holiday in 1781.
  • Benjamin franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston all helped write the Declaration of Independence.  They all considered Thomas Jefferson the best writer, so he wrote most of it.
  • The original draft can be found in the Library of Congress, in its preserved form with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and notes of Congress.
  • The official signed version is preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  It has become one of our nation’s most beloved national symbols.
  • America became its own nation during the Revolutionary war with Great Britain. 
  • The 13 Colonies were: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
  • John Adams, one of our founding fathers and a former president, wrote that Independence Day should 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.”
  • Three presidents died on the date of July 4th!  Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe.  One president was born on the July 4th anniversary—Calvin Coolidge.
  • The first week of July is known as the busiest American travel week of the season because of the July 4th holiday.
  • All non-essential federal institutions like the post offices and courts are closed on Independence Day.

The first draft of the Declaration of Independence.The first draft of the Declaration of Independence.Courtesy of pbs.org