Independence Day (United States)

Last updated

Independence Day
Fourth of July fireworks behind the Washington Monument, 1986.jpg
Displays of fireworks, such as these over the Washington Monument in 1986, take place across the United States on Independence Day.
Also calledThe Fourth of July
Observed by United States
SignificanceThe day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress
Celebrations Fireworks, family reunions, concerts, barbecues, picnics, parades, baseball games
DateJuly 4 [lower-alpha 1]

Independence Day (colloquially the Fourth of July) is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, establishing the United States of America.


The Founding Father delegates of the Second Continental Congress declared that the Thirteen Colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, King George III, and were now united, free, and independent states. [1] The Congress voted to approve independence by passing the Lee Resolution on July 2 and adopted the Declaration of Independence two days later, on July 4. [1]

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, [2] baseball games, family reunions, political speeches, and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States. [3] [4] [5]


During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain's rule. [6] [7] After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration to remove its vigorous denunciation of the slave trade, finally approving it two days later on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

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. [8]

Adams's prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress. [9]

Historians have long disputed whether members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

By a remarkable coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two signatories of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as presidents of the United States, both died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, Jefferson even mentioning the fact. [15] Although not a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, James Monroe, another Founding Father who was elected president, also died on July 4, 1831, making him the third President who died on the anniversary of independence. [16] The only U.S. president to have been born on Independence Day was Calvin Coolidge, who was born on July 4, 1872. [17]


Independence Day issue of The Saturday Evening Post, 1924 SaturdayEveningPost5Jul1924.jpg
Independence Day issue of The Saturday Evening Post , 1924
American children of many ethnic backgrounds celebrate noisily in a fantasy 1902 Puck cartoon American 1902 Fourth of July fireworks.jpg
American children of many ethnic backgrounds celebrate noisily in a fantasy 1902 Puck cartoon


An 1825 invitation to an Independence Day celebration InvitationIndependenceDayGreenwichCT06201825.jpg
An 1825 invitation to an Independence Day celebration

Independence Day is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Per 5 U.S.C.   § 6103, Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (such as the postal service and federal courts) are closed on that day. While the legal holiday remains on July 4, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, then federal government employees will instead take the day off on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively. [23]

Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue; [24] many take advantage of the day off and, in some years, a long weekend to gather with relatives or friends. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades are often held in the morning, before family get-togethers, while fireworks displays occur in the evening after dark at such places as parks, sporting venues, fairgrounds, public shorelines, or town squares.[ citation needed ]

The night before the Fourth was once the focal point of celebrations, marked by raucous gatherings often incorporating bonfires as their centerpiece. In New England, towns competed to build towering pyramids, assembled from barrels and casks. They were lit at nightfall to usher in the celebration. The highest were in Salem, Massachusetts, with pyramids composed of as many as forty tiers of barrels. These made the tallest bonfires ever recorded. The custom flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries and is still practiced in some New England towns. [25]

Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs, [26] such as "The Star-Spangled Banner" (the American national anthem); "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean"; "God Bless America"; "America the Beautiful"; "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"; "This Land Is Your Land"; "Stars and Stripes Forever"; "Yankee Doodle"; "Dixie" in southern states; "Lift Every Voice and Sing"; and occasionally, but has nominally fallen out of favor, Hail Columbia. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.[ citation needed ]

Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. 4th of July Independence Day Parade 2014 DC (14466486678).jpg
Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

Firework shows are held in many states, [27] and many fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show. Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed. In addition, local and regional conditions may dictate whether the sale or use of fireworks in an area will be allowed; for example, the global supply chain crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations of shows. [28] Some local or regional firework sales are limited or prohibited because of dry weather or other specific concerns. [29] On these occasions the public may be prohibited from purchasing or discharging fireworks, but professional displays (such as those at sports events) may still take place.[ citation needed ]

A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a "salute to the union," is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base. [30]

New York City has the largest fireworks display in the country sponsored by Macy's, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploded in 2009. [31] It generally holds displays in the East River. Other major displays are in Seattle on Lake Union; in San Diego over Mission Bay; in Boston on the Charles River; in Philadelphia over the Philadelphia Museum of Art; in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay; and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. [32]

During the annual Windsor–Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan hosts one of the largest fireworks displays in North America, over the Detroit River, to celebrate Independence Day in conjunction with Windsor, Ontario's celebration of Canada Day. [33]

The first week of July is typically one of the busiest United States travel periods of the year, as many people use what is often a three-day holiday weekend for extended vacation trips. [34]

Notable celebrations

Originally entitled Yankee Doodle, this is one of several versions of a scene painted by A. M. Willard that came to be known as The Spirit of '76. Often imitated or parodied, it is a familiar symbol of American patriotism Spirit of '76.jpg
Originally entitled Yankee Doodle , this is one of several versions of a scene painted by A. M. Willard that came to be known as The Spirit of '76. Often imitated or parodied, it is a familiar symbol of American patriotism
The 2019 Independence Day parade in Washington, D.C.

Other countries

The Philippines celebrates July 4 as its Republic Day to commemorate the day in 1946 when it ceased to be a U.S. territory and the United States officially recognized Philippine Independence. [45] July 4 was intentionally chosen by the United States because it corresponds to its Independence Day, and this day was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until 1962. In 1964, the name of the July 4 holiday was changed to Republic Day.

Rebild National Park in Denmark is said to hold the largest July 4 celebrations outside of the United States. [46]

See also


  1. "Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes the public holidays . . . for Federal employees. Please note that most Federal employees work on a Monday through Friday schedule. For these employees, when a holiday falls on a nonworkday -- Saturday or Sunday -- the holiday usually is observed on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday)." "Federal Holidays". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved January 15, 2022.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Declaration of Independence</span> 1776 assertion of colonial Americas independence from Great Britain

The United States Declaration of Independence, formally The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, is the pronouncement and founding document adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776. Enacted during the American Revolution, the Declaration explains why the Thirteen Colonies at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain regarded themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer subject to British colonial rule. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step in forming the United States of America and, de facto, formalized the American Revolutionary War, which had been ongoing since April 1775.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Juneteenth</span> U.S. holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas. Originating in Galveston, the holiday has since been observed annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States, often broadly celebrating African-American culture. The day was first recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law after the efforts of Lula Briggs Galloway, Greshun De Bouse, Opal Lee, and others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Veterans Day</span> Federal holiday in the United States

Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed annually on November 11, for honoring military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day which are celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. At the urging of major U.S. veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boston Pops Orchestra</span> American orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Pops Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts, specializing in light classical and popular music. The orchestra's current music director is Keith Lockhart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Federal holidays in the United States</span> U.S. government holidays

Federal holidays in the United States are the eleven calendar dates that are designated by the U.S. government as holidays. On U.S. federal holidays, non-essential federal government offices are closed and federal government employees are paid for the holiday.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Halifax Resolves</span> 1776 resolution adopted by North Carolina

The Halifax Resolves was a name later given to the resolution adopted by North Carolina on April 12, 1776. The adoption of the resolution was the first official action in the American Colonies calling for independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution. The Halifax Resolves helped pave the way for the presentation to Congress of the United States Declaration of Independence less than three months later.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Bicentennial</span> 200th anniversary of the U.S.

The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to historical events leading up to the creation of the United States of America as an independent republic. It was a central event in the memory of the American Revolution. The Bicentennial culminated on Sunday, July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Founding Father delegates of the Second Continental Congress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National day</span> Designated date on which celebrations mark the nationhood of a nation

A national day is a day on which celebrations mark the nationhood of a nation or state. It may be the date of independence, of becoming a republic, of becoming a federation, or a significant date for a patron saint or a ruler. The national day is often a public holiday. Many countries have more than one national day. Denmark and the United Kingdom are the only two countries without a national day. National days emerged with the age of Age of Nationalism, with most appearing during the 19th and 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Public holidays in the United States</span>

The schedule of public holidays in the United States is largely influenced by the schedule of federal holidays but is controlled by private sector employers who provide 62% of the total U.S. population with paid time off.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pioneer Day</span> Holiday in Utah, United States

Pioneer Day is an official holiday celebrated on July 24 in the American state of Utah, with some celebrations taking place in regions of surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers. It commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, where the Latter-day Saints settled after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States. Parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities help commemorate the event. Similar to July 4, many local and all state-run government offices and many businesses are closed on Pioneer Day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rebild Municipality</span> Municipality in North Jutland, Denmark

Rebild municipality is a municipality in North Jutland Region in Denmark. It covers an area of 628 km² and a total population of 28,753 (2008).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Colonies</span> Name used for the Thirteen Colonies

The "United Colonies" was the name used by the Second Continental Congress for the emerging nation comprising the Thirteen Colonies in 1775 and 1776, before and as independence was declared. Continental currency banknotes displayed the name 'The United Colonies' from May, 1775, until February, 1777, and the name was being used as a colloquial phrase to refer to the colonies as a whole before the Second Congress met, although the precise place or date of its origin is unknown.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Independence Day (Philippines)</span> National holiday in the Philippines

Independence Day is an annual national holiday in the Philippines observed on June 12, commemorating the declaration of Philippine independence from Spain in 1898.

Independence Day is a holiday in Bahrain commemorating the declaration of independence from the British Empire, which occurred on 15 August 1971.

The following are minor or locally celebrated holidays related to the American Revolution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cinco de Mayo</span> Annual celebration held on May 5

Cinco de Mayo is a yearly celebration held on May 5, which commemorates the anniversary of Mexico's victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of a smaller, poorly equipped Mexican force against the larger and better-armed French army was a morale boost for the Mexicans. Zaragoza died months after the battle from an illness, and a larger French force ultimately defeated the Mexican army at a Second Battle of Puebla and occupied Mexico City. However this was not the end of the war and when the American civil war ended the Union started loaning money and guns to Mexican liberals, pushing France and Mexican Conservatives to the edge of defeat. At the opening of the French chambers in January 1866, Napoleon III announced that he would withdraw French troops from Mexico. In reply to a French request for American neutrality, the American secretary of state William H. Seward replied that French withdrawal from Mexico should be unconditional.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philadelphia Welcome America Festival</span>

The Philadelphia Welcome America Festival is an annual series of celebrations leading up to Independence Day, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is currently sponsored by convenience store chain Wawa. Coverage of events on July 4th airs on NBC Channel 10 & Telemundo Canal 62.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Independence Day (Belarus)</span> Public holiday in Belarus

Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus, also known as Republic Day or Liberation Day is a public holiday, the independence day of Belarus and is celebrated each year on 3 July. Independence Day is a non-working day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Semiquincentennial</span> Upcoming 250th anniversary of the USA in 2026

The United States Semiquincentennial will be the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies in 1776. Festivities will be scheduled to mark various events leading up to the anniversary on July 4, 2026.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2019 Salute to America</span> 2019 event in Washington D.C.

The 2019 Salute to America was an event arranged by the Trump administration held on Independence Day, July 4, 2019, in Washington, D.C. It took place at the National Mall and included presentations of U.S. military vehicles, an address by President Donald Trump from the Lincoln Memorial, flyovers by military aircraft, and a fireworks display. The event occurred alongside pre-existing annual Independence Day events such as the National Independence Day Parade and the PBS-televised A Capitol Fourth concert. It was the first time a U.S. president had addressed a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day in 68 years.


  1. 1 2 "What is Independence Day in USA?". Tech Notes. July 2, 2015. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  2. 1 2 Hernández, Javier C. (July 3, 2022). "Amid Ukraine War, Orchestras Rethink '1812 Overture,' a July 4 Rite - Some ensembles have decided not to perform Tchaikovsky's overture, written as commemoration of Russia's defeat of Napoleon's army". The New York Times . Archived from the original on July 4, 2022. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  3. "National Days of Countries". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade . New Zealand. Archived from the original on September 4, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  4. Central Intelligence Agency. "National Holiday". The World Factbook. Archived from the original on May 13, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  5. "National Holiday of Member States". United Nations. Archived from the original on July 2, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  6. Becker, p. 3.
  7. Staff writer (July 1, 1917). "How Declaration of Independence was Drafted" (PDF). The New York Times . Archived (PDF) from the original on July 4, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2009. On the following day, when the formal vote of Congress was taken, the resolutions were approved by twelve Colonies–all except New York. The original Colonies, therefore, became the United States of America on July 2, 1776.
  8. "Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, 'Had a Declaration…'". Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society. Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  9. Maier, Pauline (August 7, 1997). "Making Sense of the Fourth of July". American Heritage. Archived from the original on September 3, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  10. Burnett, Edward Cody (1941). The Continental Congress. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 191–96. ISBN   978-1104991852.
  11. Warren, Charles (July 1945). "Fourth of July Myths". William and Mary Quarterly . 3d. 2 (3): 238–272. doi:10.2307/1921451. JSTOR   1921451.
  12. "Top 5 Myths About the Fourth of July!". History News Network . George Mason University. June 30, 2001. Archived from the original on July 3, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  13. Becker, pp. 184–85.
  14. For the minority scholarly argument that the Declaration was signed on July 4, see Wilfred J. Ritz, "The Authentication of the Engrossed Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776" Archived August 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine , Law and History Review 4, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 179–204, via JSTOR.
  15. Meacham, Jon (2012). Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power . Random House LLC. p.  496. ISBN   978-0679645368.
  16. "James Monroe – U.S. Presidents". Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  17. Klein, Christopher (July 1, 2015). "8 Famous Figures Born on the Fourth of July". Archived from the original on July 4, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  18. Heintze, "The First Celebrations".
  19. 1 2 3 Heintze, "A Chronology of Notable Fourth of July Celebration Occurrences".
  20. Graff, Michael (November 2012). "Time Stands Still in Old Salem". Our State . Archived from the original on October 4, 2015. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  21. Heintze, "How the Fourth of July was Designated as an 'Official' Holiday".
  22. Heintze, "Federal Legislation Establishing the Fourth of July Holiday".
  23. "Federal Holidays". U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Archived from the original on November 10, 2021. Retrieved November 13, 2021.
  24. "Fourth of July no picnic for the nation's environment". Oak Ridge National Laboratory . July 3, 2003. Retrieved July 4, 2022. July 4 is by far the most popular day of the year for cookouts, according to a Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association survey that found that 76 percent of the nation's grill owners use at least one of their grills that day.
  25. "The Night Before the Fourth". The Atlantic. July 1, 2011. Archived from the original on October 25, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  26. Newell, Shane (July 2, 2018). "Here's how they pick music for a good Fourth of July fireworks show". The Press-Enterprise . Retrieved July 4, 2022. Jim Souza, president of the Rialto-based Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, said ... 'Everybody wants patriotic music.'
  27. Gore, Leada (July 3, 2022). "July 4th: Holiday history, more; Why do we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks?". Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  28. Hall, Andy (July 1, 2022). "Which US cities have canceled July 4th fireworks due to fire concerns?". El País . Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  29. Bryant, Kelly (May 19, 2021). "These Are the States Where Fireworks Are Legal". Reader's Digest .
  30. "Origin of the 21-Gun Salute". U.S. Army Center of Military History. October 3, 2003. Archived from the original on June 19, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  31. 1 2 Biggest fireworks show in U.S. lights up sky Archived July 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , USA Today, July 2009.
  32. Nelson, Samanta (July 1, 2016). "10 of the nation's Best 4th of July Firework Shows". USA Today . Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  33. Newman, Stacy. "Freedom Festival". Encyclopedia of Detroit. Detroit Historical Society. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  34. "AAA Chicago Projects Increase in Fourth of July Holiday Travelers" Archived October 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , PR Newswire, June 23, 2010
  35. "Founder of America's Oldest Fourth of July Celebration". First Congregational Church. Archived from the original on March 23, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  36. "History of Seward Nebraska 4th of July". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011.
  37. "History". Rebild Society. Rebild National Park Society. Archived from the original on July 1, 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  38. "2009 Macy's 4th of July Fireworks". Federated Department Stores. April 29, 2009. Archived from the original on August 25, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2009.
  39. "Welcome to Boston's 4th of July Celebration". Boston 4 Celebrations Foundation. 2009. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved July 4, 2009.
  40. James H. Burnett III. Boston gets a nonreality show: CBS broadcasts impossible views of 4th fireworks Archived April 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine . Boston Globe, July 8, 2011
  41. Powers, Martine; Moskowitz, Eric (June 15, 2013). "July 4 fireworks gala loses its national pop". The Boston Globe . Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  42. "With CBS on board again, Keith Lockhart is ready to take over prime time". Boston Herald. July 2016. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  43. "7News partners with Bloomberg TV to air 2018 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular". WHDH. June 21, 2018. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  44. A Capitol Fourth – The Concert Archived February 20, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , PBS, accessed July 12, 2013
  45. Philippine Republic Day, Official Gazette (Philippines), archived from the original on July 29, 2021, retrieved July 5, 2012
  46. Lindsey Galloway (July 3, 2012). "Celebrate American independence in Denmark". Archived from the original on November 15, 2014.

Further reading