The Fourth of July celebrates the birthday of our nation. It also has turned into a great, midsummer celebration of freedom, fun and national pride. There are also plenty of fun facts about the Fourth of July, such as how it annoyed a Founding Father that it happens on July 4, not July 2.
So, as you gear up for your own Fourth of July celebrations, here are some basic facts and a few fun ones about the biggest national holiday.
Basic Facts About the Fourth of July
The reason we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day is because that is the day in 1776 when the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence.
However, the actual resolution of independence passed two days earlier on July 2. But from the beginning, people celebrated the date of the declaration, not the resolution (much to the dismay of John Adams, see below).
It took a lot to get it done: the newly formed United States was breaking from Great Britain, one of the world’s major powers. But our forefathers had enough of being part of the British Empire. Their chief complaint involved the fact that Britain taxed people in the “colonies” without giving them representation in the British government.
Thomas Jefferson, who later became the third president, acted as chief author of the declaration. If Founding Fathers come up in conversation this Fourth of July, the most famous include Jefferson, Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.
A Few Fun Facts About the Fourth of July
Chances are you are getting together with family or friends for this Fourth of July, maybe cooking up some good food (barbecue is a frequent choice) and watching fireworks.
In doing so, you will celebrate in a fashion not all that different from what happened more than 200 years ago. For the first celebration in 1777, people had bonfires, parades and fired cannons in Philadelphia.
If you want a conversation starter or two, here are some fun facts about the Fourth of July.
- John Adams, the second president and a Founding Father, supposedly did not like that July 4 became the big day of celebration. He often turned down invitations to events on that day, according to History.com. He thought it should be celebrated on July 2.
- Both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.
- Some colonists in the summer of 1777, the first celebration of Independence Day, held mock funerals for British King George.
- At the 1779 celebration, George Washington issued double portions of rum to the Continental Army soldiers.
- Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4 an official holiday, doing so in 1781.
- The U.S. Congress did not make July 4 a federal holiday until 1870. It wasn’t until 1941 that it was made a holiday in which federal employees were granted a day off with full pay. Most private employers followed suit.
- The nation’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is played at many Fourth of July celebrations, but it didn’t even exist during the Revolutionary War. Instead, the words are from the 1814 poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” by Francis Scott Key, who had witnessed British ships bomb Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. It did not become the national anthem until 1931.
- Independence Day events were rowdier and more political up until the early 20th Century, when they began to focus on leisure activity and getting together with friends and family.
There you have it, a few fun facts about the Fourth of July to use as a conversation starter at your next party. Just hope you guests are more like Washington handing out free rum than Adams, who probably wouldn’t show up!