Fireworks, flags, parades – on July 4th, the United States celebrates its birthday. Learn everything you need to know about America's Independence Day, from the origins to beloved traditions and 2021 highlights.
On July 4th, the United States celebrates the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. In 1776, representatives of the then 13 colonies signed the famous document with which they declared their independence from the British crown, and of which the whole of America is still extremely proud today.
The background for this historical event was an increasing dissatisfaction of the colonists towards the ruling monarchs in Great Britain. Before 1776, the colonies were subject to British law and had to pay high duties for the import of goods such as sugar, coffee, tea, or spirits.
According to the motto "No taxation without representation," the American colonies refused to continue paying high taxes to a country thousands of miles away without representation in Parliament.
As the English king responded to the demands with a new tax on tea, the famous Boston Tea Party took place on December 16th, 1773, during which Americans expressed their displeasure. 342 boxes of the highly taxed tea – a symbol of oppression for the colonists – were dumped into the harbor of Boston.
This was followed by the American War of Independence, in which the US Army was led by George Washington, who later became the first president.
All 13 existing American colonies voted for independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 representatives of the colonies just two days later, on July 4th, 1776 – the United States of America was born!
The Declaration of Independence defined the political and moral philosophy for the country that would subsequently become the United States of America. All Americans to this day are very proud of the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. At the time, the ideas were revolutionary, making America the first modern democracy:
The most famous part of the Declaration of Independence:
"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...."
Celebrating Independence Day has a long tradition in America. As early as 1777, one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the port of Philadelphia was decorated in American national colors. Solemn parades with a large fireworks display and 13 cannon shots (one for each of the 13 colonies at the time) made the event a special day for everyone present.
The future President John Adams, who was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, wrote to his wife that the Independence Day fireworks should be so big that they could be seen "from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forevermore." Thus was born the tradition of large fireworks displays on July 4th.
In addition to fireworks, parades and concerts are held throughout the country to mark the birth of American independence on July 4th. Family barbecues are also a popular Independence Day pastime among Americans.
Of course, the blue, white, and red colors of the star-spangled banner can't be missing anywhere during all the celebrations. Even if Americans like to show their flag often, even on ordinary days, they are really everywhere come July 4th – on cars, in stores, in newspaper ads, or on TV. Many Americans wear the flag on their outfits, and even pets are dressed in blue-white-red.
There are plenty of places to celebrate Independence Day in America, but these five venues are sure to give you goosebumps:
Where better celebrate Independence Day than in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed? The largest town in Pennsylvania honors America's day with a ceremony called the “Celebration of Freedom” and a huge parade of wagons and brass bands, drawing 5,000 spectators to line the streets of Philadelphia's historic center.
Once you've traveled to Philadelphia, be sure to also visit Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Liberty Bell Center, where the bell that was rung during the signing hangs today.
Do you want to experience a traditional Independence Day celebration? Then head to Bristol in the US state of Rhode Island. The “Patriotic Exercises” have been held here continuously since 1785. The nostalgic event features a 4 km long military, civic, and firemen's parade with bands, drum corps, and a festival wagon competition.
You can spend Independence Day under the watchful gaze of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt at Mount Rushmore in Black Hills, South Dakota. Celebrations at the world-famous monument include concerts, educational and cultural programs, and lookalikes of the presidents.
Many say that the most beautiful fireworks displays for the 4th of July can be seen in New York City. The “Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular” features professionally choreographed pyrotechnics and musical accompaniment featuring classical and patriotic songs. Being fired from ships positioned on the East River, you can see the show from Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. If you want to get really close to the spectacle, you can also sign up for a boat tour on the East River.
Macy's has announced that the fireworks display in 2021 will be launched from five ships floating on the East River and will include more than 65,000 effects. According to the organizers, “the 45th annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks will light up the NYC skyline in a celebration of America’s heroes & the resilient spirit within us all!"
Spectacular Independence Day fireworks are also unleashed into the night sky above the monuments of Washington D.C. every year. Before the color spectacle gets underway, the "National Independence Day Parade" and the celebrity-filled "Capitol Fourth" concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol traditionally ensure a good mood among the partying crowds.
Washington visitors will have to wait until next year for the “National Independence Day Parade” and the “Capitol Fourth.” But the fireworks are back! Washington's National Park Service has announced that the 2021 Independence Day fireworks display will take place on the National Mall. It is scheduled to be fired at 9:09 pm local time from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and will last 17 minutes.
Your thirst for knowledge is not yet satisfied? We have found a few more interesting facts about Independence Day:
Do you want to learn more about celebrations in the USA? We have more exciting articles about typical holidays in the land of opportunity for you! Learn everything about popular American holidays like Thanksgiving or Halloween.
See you soon and „Happy 4th of July”!