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The Fourth of July

written by High School Intern, Makayla Finn

Oh, the Fourth of July, a festivity where families and neighbors get together to fill the night sky with colorful fireworks and eat barbecue on a hot summer evening. It’s a time where dads talk about the proper techniques of working a grill, while their children throw water balloons at each other in the streets, periodically splashing the moms while they gossip about the latest episode of Big Brother. But was the Fourth of July always celebrated with hot dogs fresh off the grill and fireworks that explode into an array of lights and sounds? Well, yes, but actually no. This traditional American holiday celebration dates back to the 18th century, 1777 to be exact.

The idea for this tradition transformed from celebrations American colonists held while living under the British crown, “In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, […] By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III” (history.com editors, 2009, history.com). These celebratory evenings were filled with cannon and musket fire, delicious barbeque, and fireworks. Despite what may seem to some like a relatively new invention, fireworks were actually initially invented to ward off evil spirits during the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC -220 AD). For more information on the origins of fireworks, see history.com’s article “Fireworks’ Vibrant History”.

Here’s a fun fact about the iconic colors that decorate homes across America during the Fourth

of July weekend: the decision to use red, white, and blue was made about a year in advance of the actual creation of the first American flag. A committee was formed in 1776 to develop a seal for the United States, utilizing the colors red, white and blue, a year before the first American flag was adopted, “Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, explained […] ‘White signifies purity and innocence. Red, hardiness and valor, and blue…signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice’” (Greenstein, 2013, Time.com) . The first official American flag was adopted in 1777.

While it might seem like the Fourth of July back in 1777 was completely different than today’s celebrations at first glance, maybe they were not so different. They were even barbecuing hot dogs and corn on the cob just like many Americans do today!

References

Greenstein, Nicole. (2013, July 4). Why the U.S. flag is red, white and blue. Time.com.

https://swampland.time.com/2013/07/04/why-the-u-s-flag-is-red-white-and-blue/.

History.com Editors. (2009, Dec. 16). Fourth of July – Independence Day. History.com.

www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th.

History.com Editors. (2011, July 1). Fireworks’ vibrant history. History.com.

https://www.history.com/news/fireworks-vibrant-history.

Kidsplayandcreate.com Editors. (2015, July 2). Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July? 4th of

July facts for kids. Kidsplayandcreate.com. 2 July 2015,

www.kidsplayandcreate.com/why-do-we-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-4th-of-july-facts-for-

kids/#:~:text=4th%20of%20July%20Facts%20for%20Kids%201%20July,unhappy%20with%2

0British%20government.%20…%20More%20items…%20.

Waxman, Olivia B. (2017, July 3). July 4th fireworks history: how they became a tradition.

Time.com.https://time.com/4828701/first-fireworks-history-july-4th/