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What does the Fourth of July Celebrate?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Each year, the United States celebrates their decision to declare independence from Great Britain on 4 July. Independence Day, more commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a day of picnics, parties and patriotic displays in celebration of the birth of the country. The momentous day of 1776 that established America as a new country is considered a main holiday of the year for Americans.

Until 1776, the United States was a collection of colonies and territories under the rule of several different nations. France, England, Spain and Denmark all had strongholds throughout the new world. The Northeastern seaboard of the Atlantic Ocean was largely controlled by the British, who divided the land into thirteen separate colonies of the British Empire.

After decades of British rule and being subject to British taxes, citizens of the colonies were growing eager for a new government. Unlike the monarchy in Britain, this new country would be ruled by elected officials and devote itself to the rights of the people. Powerful representatives of the colonies joined together in the Second Continental Congress, and drafted a document announcing their independence from Britain. At this point, the American Revolutionary War was well under way, and the resulting Declaration of Independence was really more of a formality as colonial forces were already fighting the British throughout the colonies.

The Fourth of July is a memorial to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The text of the document, which was largely composed by Thomas Jefferson, was agreed upon by the Congress on 4 July 1776, and sent to the printers to make a formal copy. It is sometimes referred to as a celebration of the signing of the document by the Congress members, but this did not take place until nearly a month later.

The Declaration of Independence is of tremendous importance to American history, as it outlines the reasons for their secession and outlines the famous American goals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The original document resides in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC. The eloquence and earnest feeling of the wording and the results it brought leads many experts to call it one of the greatest statements in the history of modern civilization.

On the Fourth of July, Americans often celebrate by singing the National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and watching displays of fireworks displays. While these shows are for entertainment, they are reminiscent of the bloody fight America had for its freedom and the chaos of the Revolutionary War. Many communities hold parades with patriotic displays, and people traditionally dress in red, white and blue to honor the colors of the American flag.

Although the Fourth of July is now more of a party than a memorial, it has great significance to many Americans. The opportunity to relax and enjoy company and entertainment are modern American luxuries in a world of 60-hour work weeks and unpaid vacations. The history of the Fourth of July is a chance to reflect on how far the nation has come since that hot day in 1776, when the founding fathers risked their lives and reputations on a dream for a new world. The enjoyment of picnics and fireworks were purchased with the Declaration of Independence, giving Americans a true and heartfelt reason to celebrate their nation’s birthday.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for America Explained. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon160032 — On Mar 14, 2011

I completely disagree with this statement: "Unlike the monarchy in Britain, this new country would be ruled by elected officials and devote itself to the rights of the people."

The British Parliament of elected representatives was formed in 1707 and by 1717 almost all legislative power had moved from King George I to the democratically elected body that was Parliament. Following the Act of Union between England and Scotland, Great Britain was the first truly democratic 'modern time' Country in the World!

We have Civil Wars to prove it. Monarchists vs Protestants, Great Britain had long been democratic by 1766 and it was the Government that actually REMOVED (yes, you heard right, removed!) all the taxes from the Colonies. The tax on tea was the last remaining tax, not because it was a tax on the colony, but because it was a tax on the shipping and the shipping owners had to pay a levy when they off loaded the goods in Britain so need to pass on the tax. Anyhow, it all got a bit out of hand wouldn't you say?

By grumpy112 — On Jul 14, 2010

I disagree with some of what is written in this article. The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence declared that as of July 4, 1776 the 13 colonies, New Hampshire through Georgia, were no longer colonies in the British Empire and that they were now countries, although they referred to them as free and independent states. A state is a country. The Declaration calls the country Great Britain the 'State of Great Britain'.

The country that today is called the U.S. did not exist in 1776, nor was it ever a part of the British Empire. So how could the U.S. declare its independence? Here are some words in the title of the Declaration: The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united States of America. If "United States of America" refers to one country, then the words 'unanimous' and 'thirteen' make no sense.

July 4 is not America's birthday. By America, I mean the U.S. July 4 is the birthday of the 13 new countries.

By geekgirl — On Jan 12, 2010

i think that people nowadays miss the point of the 4th of july.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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