Independence Day - 4th of July

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 2023 highlights.

Independence Day: history & background

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 with 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.

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.

Declaration of Independence

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:

  • All men are created equal.
  • All human beings have inalienable rights.
  • All people have the right to life, freedom, and the right to pursue happiness.
  • The government is elected and appointed by the people.

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...."

How does America celebrate Independence Day?

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.

Top Independence Day Events

There are plenty of places to celebrate Independence Day in America, but these five venues are sure to give you goosebumps:

Independence Day in Philadelphia

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.

Indepencence Day in Bristol

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 firefighters´parade with bands, drum corps, and a festival wagon competition.

Indepencence Day in the Black Hills

You can spend Independence Day under the watchful gaze of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt at Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, South Dakota. Celebrations at the world-famous monument include concerts, educational and cultural programs, and lookalikes of the presidents.

Indepencence Day in New York City

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.

Independence Day 2022 in New York City

Many US travelers expect to see a parade in New York City on the 4th of July, but unfortunately, that's not the case. However, New York features an incredible fireworks display that attracts the attention of three million spectators! The spectacle of lights consists of 60,000 fireworks, lasts about 25 minutes, and is one of the largest displays in the world. The show starts at 9:25 pm on the East River near Midtown Manhattan.

The best places to see the show are Long Island City, Greenpoint in Brooklyn, or Midtown Manhattan between 14th Street and 50th Street. Also, several rooftop bars or other locations overlooking the East River host parties where you can enjoy the view of the fireworks.

Indepencence Day in Washington D.C.

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.

Independence Day 2023 in Washington, D. C.

America will celebrate its 247th birthday with the "National Independence Day Parade" on July 4th, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The parade will pass along historic Constitution Avenue from 11:45 am and will be viewed by many thousands of enthusiastic spectators. In addition, just like last year, a spectacular fireworks display will light up Washington's night sky.

Fun Facts zum Independence Day

Your thirst for knowledge is not yet satisfied? We have found a few more interesting facts about Independence Day:

  • John Adams, the second US president, and Thomas Jefferson, the third US president, both signed the Declaration of Independence. Both men died on the same day – on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence.
  • The American Revolution did not begin on July 4th, 1776, but as early as April 1775.
  • Congress voted for independence on July 2nd, 1776. John Adams noted at the time that July 2nd should be the date remembered in American history and honored with fireworks and celebrations.
  • It was not until 1941 that the American Congress declared Independence Day a paid legal holiday.
  • Americans eat a total of about 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • July 4th is the most popular holiday for barbecues, followed by Memorial Day and Labor Day.
  • According to an estimate by the American Pyrotechnic Association, more than 14,000 fireworks light up America's night sky on July 4th.

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”!

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