Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.
The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain and were now united, free, and independent states.
The Congress had voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2, but it was not declared until July 4.
Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States.
Independence Day is the National Day of the United States
Independence Day is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays.
Similar to other summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place outdoors.
According to 5 U.S.C. § 6103, Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (such as the postal service and federal courts) are closed on that day.
Many politicians make it a point on this day to appear at a public event to praise the nation’s heritage, laws, history, society, and people.
Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue; many take advantage of the day off and, in some years, a long weekend to gather with relatives or friends.
Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag.
Parades are often held in the morning, before family get-togethers, while fireworks displays occur in the evening after dark at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
The night before the Fourth was once the focal point of celebrations, marked by raucous gatherings often incorporating bonfires as their centerpiece.
In New England, towns competed to build towering pyramids, assembled from barrels and casks.
They were lit at nightfall to usher in the celebration. The highest were in Salem, Massachusetts, with pyramids composed of as many as forty tiers of barrels.
These made the tallest bonfires ever recorded. The custom flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries and is still practiced in some New England towns.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”; “God Bless America”; “America the Beautiful”; “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”; “This Land Is Your Land”; “Stars and Stripes Forever”; and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states.
Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.
Firework shows are held in many states, and many fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show.
Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed.
In addition, local and regional weather conditions may dictate whether the sale or use of fireworks in an area will be allowed.
Some local or regional firework sales are limited or prohibited because of dry weather or other specific concerns.
On these occasions the public may be prohibited from purchasing or discharging fireworks, but professional displays (such as those at sports events) may still take place, if certain safety precautions have been taken.
A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a “salute to the union,” is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base.
New York City has the largest fireworks display in the country, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploded in 2009.
It generally holds displays in the East River.
Other major displays are in Seattle on Lake Union; in San Diego over Mission Bay; in Boston on the Charles River; in Philadelphia over the Philadelphia Museum of Art; in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay; and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
During the annual Windsor–Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan hosts one of the largest fireworks displays in North America, over the Detroit River, to celebrate Independence Day in conjunction with Windsor, Ontario’s celebration of Canada Day.
The first week of July is typically one of the busiest United States travel periods of the year, as many people use what is often a three-day holiday weekend for extended vacation trips.