On July 4, 1776,members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. This day became known as America's Independence DayFollowing its adoption, the Declaration was read to the public in various American cities. Whenever they heard it, patriots erupted in cheers and celebrations.
In 1777, Philadelphians remembered the 4th of July. Bells were rung, guns fired, candles lighted, and firecrackers set off. However, while the Revolutionary War dragged on, July 4 celebrations were modest at best.When the war ended in 1783, July 4 became a holiday in some places. Speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks marked the day. It wasn’t until 1941 however that Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday.
Over time, various other summertime activities also came to be associated with the Fourth of July, including historical pageants, picnics, baseball games, watermelon-eating contests, and trips to the beach. Common foods include hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, apple pie, cole slaw, and sometimes clam bakes. Historic cities like Boston and Philadelphia draw huge crowds to their festivities.
As the birthplace of independence, Philadelphia has a pretty important reason to celebrate the Fourth of July. The city hosts an eight-day birthday party for America known as the Wawa Welcome America! (It’s sponsored by Wawa, a convenience store chain headquartered outside of Philadelphia) Festival events include a patriotic ceremony in front of Independence Hall, a parade through the streets of Historic Philadelphia, and three fireworks shows. It also includes the annual tapping of the Liberty Bell hosted by the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution and the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. To avoid cracking it more, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846, so it’s symbolically tapped 13 times instead (one time for each of the 13 colonies).
The American Revolution began in Boston, so naturally the city hosts annual celebrations that are befitting of Bostonians’ civic pride and maritime tradition. The annual Boston Harborfest includes four days of fun, with fireworks, concerts, parades, and reenactments. The Boston Pops Orchestra holds a televised concert on the banks of the Charles River, featuring American music and ending with the 1812 Overture. The concert is accompanied by a fabulous fireworks display. There are two official readings of the Declaration of Independence- one at the Old State House, and one at Old North Church.
Other parts of the country have their own interesting July 4th traditions. Below are some less-than-typical celebrations from around the country:
Lititz, Pennsylvania holds its annual candle lighting festival over July 4th. Beginning in 1843, the tradition involved illuminating a local park with over 10,000 candles. The first one is lit by the “Queen of Candles”, a girl chosen by the local high school.
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest is held on Coney Island, New York. Each year, contestants from around the world head to Coney Island to find out who can scarf down the most dogs in ten minutes. The current record is 69.
The Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show in New York City is the nation's largest. Macy's says more than 1,600 shells are launched per minute during the 25-minute display over the East River.
Tom Sawyer Days are based on living like Tom Sawyer, the main character from Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” The book is set in a fictional town inspired by Hannibal, Missouri. where Twain lived. The highlight of the festivities is the fence painting contest for boys age 10 to 13, which began in 1956, and is based on Twain’s writings about Tom fooling his friends into painting his Aunt Polly’s fence. A crowd of thousands line Broadway and Main streets every year to see Tom and Becky, the fence painters, local bands and dancers and many colorful floats during a parade.
Bristol, Rhode Island, has hosted its annual Fourth of July Celebration since 1785, making it the oldest continuous Fourth of July Celebration. The celebration, which officially starts on Flag (June 14), continues with events like a concert series and a carnival and concludes on July 4 with a variety of events, including a festive parade..
Each year, the small harbor town of Seward, Alaska, bursts to life for its annual Seward Fourth of July Celebration. While this celebration includes staple July Fourth events, such as street vendors, food and a parade, this event is far from typical. The festivities are centered around the famous Mount Marathon Race, where racers navigate 3.5 miles through cliffs, loose rocks and steep inclines and reach an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet as they race to the top. Fireworks begin at midnight, shot from the bank of Resurrection Bay.