For many Americans, it's a day off work and a good time, but what is the history behind the Fourth of July. Why do we celebrate it? And why that date in particular? Here's our brief guide to the national holiday, which will ensure you're well equipped with plenty of fun facts to whip out at the next family event.
From a young age, we're taught in school that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, and marked the official breakaway of the colonies from Great Britain. This is, therefore, the official birthdate of America as marked in the calendars. However, as with most things in life, it's not that simple, as historians have constantly explained that the timeline of these events is not so clear-cut. According to History.com, the vote for Independence actually took place two days before July 4. Even more confusingly, the National Archives prove that delegates began signing the declaration only on August 2, with John Hancock being the first to sign it.
While it may feel like Americans have been celebrating this holiday for many years, there was actually no mention or thought of festivities at the time. One year after the declaration was signed, John Adams wrote about Philadelphia's surprising and spontaneous celebrations to his daughter. "Yesterday, being the anniversary of American Independence, was celebrated here with a festivity and ceremony becoming the occasion [...] The thought of taking any notice of this day was not conceived, until the second of this month, and it was not mentioned until the third," he wrote. According to the Library of Congress, traditional July 4th celebrations, as we know them today, did not begin until after the end of The War of 1812. Getting bigger and bigger over the years, by the 1870's it was "the most important secular holiday on the calendar."
In 1870, it was made an official national holiday alongside New Year's Day, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving Day. With these festive occasions, the country's officials hoped to reunite the North and South of the country in the aftermath of the Civil War. Now, in 2022, this message of inclusivity and freedom has never been more relevant or important! Happy holidays!