American Independence Day: History and Traditions
On July 4, 1776, thirteen colonies decided to separate from the British Empire, and the country of the United States of America was born. However, many historical events had preceded the Declaration of Independence and enabled the US to emerge as an own country.
How did it start?
Back in the 16th century, the British Empire was in control of a big part of the world, including the thirteen original American colonies. Just like all other territories, they were exploited for their mainly agricultural resources. Since Britain was going through economic hardships, they decided to improve their position via taxing the colonies and imposing harsh laws that affected the local population. This seemed to boost the already growing nationalistic mood in America and made the shaky relationship even tenser.
The situation was aggravated by the Tea Act, which had a detrimental effect on American trade and later by the Coercive Acts that were implemented as a punishment for the people who rebelled against the Tea Act in the form of the Boston Tea Party. It was followed by further protests and riots.
This seemed to be the breaking point, and in 1774 delegates from all thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia to change the history. Next year a war against Britain was declared, and in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed by all Founding Fathers.
How was it celebrated?
Despite the fact that fighting for absolute independence lasted till 1783, celebrations started already in 1777 with thirteen symbolic gunshots fired in salute, which became the beginning of the tradition that exists till nowadays. Next year, the future first president of the US general George Washington organized a celebration for the soldiers at war by issuing them with a double ration of rum.
Independence Day became a national holiday in 1870 and gained the statues of a paid holiday in 1938. Since then, it has been celebrated to the full extent by the whole nation.
How is it celebrated today?
There are two levels of the 4th of July celebrations: state and personal. As far as the state level is concerned, the politicians appear in the public eye with patriotic speeches praising the country. The President also traditionally addresses the nation, and every city holds its own celebrations.
For the common people, however, this holiday is a synonym for a three-day vacation. Families gather for picnics or a barbeque parties outside, dress in American national colors and shoot fireworks. In fact, fireworks and bonfires have become integral symbols of American Independence Day and are used in such quantity that some states even limit their sales as a precautionary measure. Nevertheless, it never stops the American sky from lighting up every year on the 4th of July.