Fourth of July: Flags fly high as Americans celebrate Independence Day

Street view of town before parade

Street view on July 4th in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Bristol parade is part of the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the United States of America. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4: Three cheers for the red, white and blue! And, this year, a record-setting number of Americans are expected to hit the road for the holiday, according to a widely reported survey of drivers by AAA. The report says: “A record-breaking 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday, an increase of more than 5 percent compared with last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking 18 years ago.”

We all know the holiday scenes! Crowds line the streets for parades, the scent of barbecue draws family and friends and, finally, fireworks light up the night sky on the Fourth of July, the National Day of the United States of America.

Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval.

With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too. Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense,” fueled the unifying aspiration for independence.

A COMMITTEE OF FIVE AND A DECLARATION DRAFT

“Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776,” oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome

The year was 1776, and the weather was stifling hot as a brand-new nation was being formed. In June of that year, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress officially declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain; a total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4, by the Second Continental Congress.

Did you know? Although some early leaders (including John Adams) assumed that July 2 would be the day henceforth celebrated as America’s “anniversary festival,” they were off by two days: July 4 was the day that the Declaration’s final wording was approved.

One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, however, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day.

Fast fact: Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

A CAPITOL FOURTH & AMERICAN SONGS

A salute of one gun for each U.S. states is fired on July 4 at noon by any capable military base, and in the evening, A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C.

This year, John Stamos is set to host the event that will feature an array of musical artists (including The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Renee Fleming, The Temptations, Pentatonix and Andy Grammer), along with the National Symphony Orchestra.

JULY 4 RECIPES, PARTY TIPS, DIY & MOVIES

Blueberry and strawberry pops on plate

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Get out those red, white and blue decorations and recipes, and invite neighbors and friends over for a birthday bash for the nation!

From the perfect grilled steak to a fresh-fruit patriotic cake, find recipes from Martha Stewart, AllRecipes, Food Network, Food & Wine, Taste of Home, Rachael Ray and Real Simple.

For party and decor tips, check out HGTV’s easy entertaining ideas, Americana style suggestions and backyard party tips. Reader’s Digest offers 21 fun party games fit for any celebration of the Fourth.

Kids can craft decorations or their own apparel with help from Parents.com and Disney.com.

Interested in a lineup of patriotic movies? Forbes and Boston.com offer a top-10 list of movies, including “Red Dawn,” “Johnny Tremain,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “1776.”

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances

July 4: Wave the banners and give a cheer for America’s Independence Day

Table of popcorn, snacks and goodies in Fourth of July papers, bags, tissues and decorated with mini flags

Photo by Anders Ruff Custom Designs, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, JULY 4: Nothing says “summer” in the U.S. like the Fourth of July, when the Stars and Stripes fly high and family cars fill the freeways: Today, on Independence Day, Americans celebrate freedom with parades, picnics, reunions with family and friends and fireworks exploding in the night sky. Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval, and Americans observe this day in grand ceremony. So fire up the grill, deck out your yard (or yourself) in red, white and blue, and enjoy summer’s all-American holiday!

No major fireworks in your area? Tune in to CBS for the live webcast of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks, which will feature celebrities Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas this year and is attended by a half million people annually.

THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY

FIreworks display over city buildings, over water, night sky

Fourth of July fireworks in New Jersey. Photo by Anthony Quintano, courtesy of Flickr

With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft. A total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4 by the Second Continental Congress. On July 5, 1776, official copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed.

Which Founding Father would you vote for?  Take quizzes and test your Constitution knowledge at ConstitutionFacts.com.

One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day. Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

A Capitol Fourth: A salute of one gun for each U.S. state is fired on July 4 at noon by any capable military base, and in the evening, A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C.

FOURTH OF JULY RECIPES, PARTY TIPS & MORE

Nothing sets the stage for a summer party like the occasion of the Fourth of July! Dig up those red, white and blue decorations and recipes, and invite neighbors and friends over for a birthday bash for the nation.

From the perfect juicy hamburger to a towering red, white and blue trifle, find recipes from Martha Stewart, AllRecipes, Food Network, Food & Wine, Taste of Home, Rachael Ray and Real Simple.

HGTV offers traditional Fourth of July fare and cocktail ideas.

For party and decor tips, check out HGTV’s Americana style suggestions and backyard party tips.

Reader’s Digest offers 10 fun party games fit for any celebration of the Fourth.

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Categories: National Observances

Fourth of July: Americans from coast to coast celebrate independence

“All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. … For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1826

American flag flying on pole in dark, nighttime, fireworks in background

Photo by Liz West, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, JULY 4: Crowds line the streets for patriotic parades; the scent of barbecue draws family and friends; then fireworks light up the night sky on the Fourth of July, the National Day of the United States of America. Though the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2, 1776, it was two days later—July 4—when the Second Continental Congress gave its approval.

Vintage postcard of man in red, white and blue apparel with flag

A vintage Fourth of July postcard. Photo by Dave, courtesy of Flickr

THE STORY OF THE DECLARATION

With the fledgling battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, few colonists considered complete independence from Great Britain. Within a year, however, hostilities toward Great Britain were building and the desire for independence was growing, too. Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense,” fueled the unifying aspiration for independence.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-person committee to draft a formal statement that would vindicate the break with Great Britain: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, considered the most articulate writer in the group, crafted the original draft. A total of 86 changes were made to the draft before its final adoption on July 4 by the Second Continental Congress. On July 5, 1776, official copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed. (Learn more from History.com.)

One year following, in 1777, Philadelphia marked the Fourth of July with an official dinner, toasts, 13-gun salutes, music, parades, prayers and speeches. As the new nation faced challenges, celebrations fell out of favor during ensuing decades. It wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that printed copies of the Declaration of Independence again were widely circulated, and festivities marked America’s Independence Day. Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870.

STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER

A salute of one gun for each U.S. states is fired on July 4 at noon by any capable military base, and in the evening, A Capitol Fourth—a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network—takes place on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C. For facts about the Declaration, an archive of American recipes, access to Patriotic songs and more, visit USA.gov. Fireworks laws by state, July 4 celebrations at national parks and barbecue, travel and pool safety tips can also be found at USA.gov.

JULY 4 RECIPES, PARTY TIPS, NEWS & MORE

Nothing sets the stage for a summer party like the occasion of the Fourth of July! Dig up those red, white and blue decorations and recipes, and invite neighbors and friends over for a birthday bash for the nation.

From the perfect grilled steak to a fresh-fruit patriotic cake, find recipes from Martha Stewart, AllRecipes, Food Network, Food & Wine, Taste of Home, Rachael Ray and Real Simple. HGTV offers traditional Fourth of July fare and cocktail ideas.

Red, white and blue batter cupcakes with white icing peak and American flag on top

Photo by Ginny, courtesy of Flickr

For party and decor tips, check out HGTV’s easy entertaining ideas, Americana style suggestions and backyard party tips. Reader’s Digest offers 10 fun party games fit for any celebration of the Fourth.

Kids can craft decorations or their own apparel with help from Disney.com and Better Homes and Gardens. Parents offers kid-approved party ideas.

Holiday weekend travelers can look to this article from Forbes for tips on Fourth of July travel, utilizing this year’s timeline and an airfare predictor app.

If mosquitos are rampant, stay indoors with a lineup of patriotic movies—Forbes and Boston.com offer a top-10 list of movies, including “Red Dawn,” “Johnny Tremain,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “1776.”

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Categories: AnniversaryInternational ObservancesNational Observances

Independence Day: United States celebrates with red, white and blue

Blimp with "July 4th" etched in the balloon, with a patriotic striped basket holding two female passengers and one male passenger

A vintage Fourth of July postcard. Photo by Dave, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, JULY 4: Today, on Independence Day, Americans celebrate our freedom with parades, picnics, reunions with family and friends—and fireworks exploding in the night sky. Nothing says “summer” in the U.S. quite like the Fourth of July, when the Stars and Stripes fly high and family cars fill the freeways. This year, AAA reports that 41 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles during the holiday weekend—up approximately 2 percent, from last year.

Even those not lucky enough to live near a city with a major fireworks display can tune into the first-ever live webcast of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks: the free event, attended by a half million people annually, will feature 2014 musical guests The Beach Boys and Smash actress Megan Hilty.

People gathered around the glass holding the Declaration of Independence, in large, neutral-hued building

The Declaration of Independence is on permanent display at the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A DECLARATION
& A NATIONAL HOLIDAY

The year was 1776, the weather was stifling hot and a brand-new nation was being formed. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress officially declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. A Committee of Five, headed by principal author Thomas Jefferson, had worked on a formal Declaration of Independence. (Learn more from Wikipedia and History.com.)

Although some of those early leaders assumed that July 2 would be the day henceforth celebrated as America’s “anniversary festival,” they were off by two days: July 4 was the day that the Declaration’s final wording was approved. (Find American recipes, fireworks laws by state and much more at USA.gov.)

Did you know? National parks in Denmark hold the largest 4th of July celebrations outside of the U.S.

Though the decades immediately following 1776 didn’t hold much in the way of widespread Independence Day celebrations, printed copies of the Declaration of Independence began circulating in the 1820s and 1830s—and by 1870, Congress had deemed July 4 a national holiday. (Learn more about the Declaration, test your knowledge with quizzes and find out which Founding Father you would vote for, all at ConstitutionFacts.com.)

Red pail with cake-filled waffle cones, sprinkled with red, white and blue sprinkles

Fourth of July cake cones. Photo by Christi, courtesy of Flickr

JULY 4 RECIPES,
DIY DÉCOR
AND MORE

If Independence Day conjures visions of red, white and blue picnics, decorations and plenty of outdoor fun, look no further than these online resources for recipe ideas, patriotic crafts and instructions for festive decorations you can make yourself:

  • Looking to decorate your backyard or home for the Fourth? Check out ideas from MSN, HGTV and Martha Stewart.
  • Keep the kids happy with crafts from Disney’s Spoonful.
  • If too many mosquitos are biting in your neighborhood come nighttime, opt for an indoor activity: Reader’s Digest, ABC News and Boston.com suggest top picks for Independence Day movies. Next to live fireworks, who can’t agree that watching Nicolas Cage fight to save the Declaration of Independence doesn’t spur a little patriotic spirit in all of us?

(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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Categories: National Observances

Independence Day: Bells, fireworks and red, white and blue for the Fourth of July

“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.”

John Adams, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, 1776

Red, orange and purple fireworks exploding at nighttime above St. Louis

Fireworks in St. Louis, MO, one of many cities that hosts celebrations on the Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

THURSDAY, JULY 4: Hang the red, white and blue bunting, light the barbecue and get ready for fireworks—it’s the Fourth of July! On this date in 1776, delegates of the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. (Wikipedia has details.)

4TH OF JULY FOOD:
FROM CRAWFISH AND TARTS TO HOT DOGS AND FLAG CAKE

Cooked crawfish on dinner plate

Photo in public domain

Thirteen British colonies separated themselves from Great Britain in July 1776. John Adams got a few things wrong as he predicted what would unfold. First, he anticipated the celebration would culminate on July 2, the date the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. However, it wasn’t until July 4 that the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. (Read more at History.com.) Adams expected solemn remembrances, each year—not the holiday bashes in many U.S. cities.

On the nation’s first anniversary, in 1777, 13 gunshots were fired in salute; fireworks exploded; an official dinner was held for the Continental Congress at City Tavern in Philadelphia. Barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad weren’t on that first menu of the Fourth, though. In 1777, celebrants dined on rabbit, turkey, crawfish and lobsters with fruits, tarts, jellies and custards in place of today’s flag-shaped cakes and berry-dotted desserts. (USA Today has an article.) Since Philadelphia was a major port at the time, experts attest that exotic fruits and spices were likely on the menu in 1777, too.

SPENDING, TRAVEL TO SKYROCKET

Whether you’ll be hosting a gathering, attending one or just barbecuing in the backyard, enjoy the day off—it’s been a paid federal holiday since 1938. (Get more facts, stats and extras at USA.gov.)

During this, the most traveled vacation period of the summer, upward of 40 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over July 4 this year, auto club AAA predicts. Planning to travel? Forbes suggests five key places to visit. Gas prices have increased only slightly since July 2012, and overall spending is expected to soar: People expect to spend almost 60 percent more on July 4 festivities this year, according to an annual national survey. (The LA Times reported.) More than 40 percent of Americans plan to buy fireworks.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE: PARTIES, RECIPES, CRAFTS AND MORE

Cone with ice cream and star red, white and blue sprinkles

Photo courtesy of flickr

Hosting a July 4 fete?

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Categories: National Observances