United States: Happy 4th of July!

Today is Independence Day in the United States. Few people actually call it Independence Day, however, preferring to refer to it as July 4th or the Fourth of July. It is one of only three holidays with a fixed date in the US, the others being Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The Statue of Liberty as viewed from a boat in New York Harbor.Photo Credit: Danny Quack.

American Holidays

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July 4th is usually celebrated with picnics or barbecues. Favoured foods include hot dogs, baby back ribs, and potato salad – washed down with lemonade or beer.

Baseball, sacks races, and tug of war are among the favoured activities. Most cities and towns put on parades with lots of floats and marching bands. There are also carnivals, fairs, concerts, and political speeches.

They are illegal in most cities, but lots of firecrackers are set off. Kids like to play with sparklers. After dark, there are fireworks displays – both private and public.

US History 101

Officially known as Independence Day, July 4th is a Federal holiday in the United States. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on 4 July 1776.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Interestingly, the legal separation of the 13 American colonies from Great Britain actually occurred two days earlier, on 2 July, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence.

Most of the members of Congress, meanwhile, actually signed the document on 2 August. But July 4th remains the date that most Americans associate with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, that was the date on which the wording of the document was approved by Congress.

The American Revolutionary War did not end with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It continued for seven more years.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on 3 September 1783, ratified by the Congress of the Confederation on 14 January 1784, and by the King of Great Britain on 9 April 1784 officially ended the conflict.

Through this treaty, Great Britain formally recognized the 13 American colonies to be free, sovereign, and independent states.

An Amazing – but Mostly Forgotten – Coincidence

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the only two signers of the declaration to be elected president of the new republic. Adams was the second president, Jefferson, the third.

In an astonishing – but now largely forgotten – coincidence, these two Founding Fathers died on the same date 50 years later – 4 July 1826, the 50th anniversary of the declaration’s adoption by Congress!

Uniform Monday Holiday Act

There are 11 Federal holidays in the United States, and most of them fall on the nearest Monday to give American employees and students a three-day weekend.

The Fourth of July is one of only  four holidays in the United States with a fixed date, the others being Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Veteran’s Day.

Under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, which went into effect in 1971, with five exceptions, all official holidays are observed on Mondays.

The fifth exception is Thanksgiving, which is observed on the fourth Thursday of November.


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