The Complete Guide to Independence Day 2024

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Independence Day Facts and History

Independence Day is a federal holiday observed every year in the United States. The holiday celebrates the history of the U.S., making it a secular holiday rather than a religious one. Specifically, Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the First Continental Congress, which took place on July 4, 1776. This document declared the 13 American colonies to be an independent nation rather than under British rule and was what led to the Revolutionary War that allowed the United States to be formally established.

Independence Day

When Is Independence Day?

Independence Day is officially held on July 4, which is why the holiday is sometimes referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth. In observance of the holiday, federal, state and local government offices are closed, and many private employers give their employees the day off as well. When the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday or Sunday, government offices usually close the Monday after the holiday; however, Independence Day celebrations are usually still held on the official date of the holiday.

History of Independence Day

In 1777, the signing of the Declaration of Independence was commemorated with a thirteen-gun salute and festivals were held throughout America. Although the date was not an official holiday, historians consider this to be the first Independence Day celebration in the U.S.

Annual events to remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence continued in the years that followed 1777. In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state legislature to name July 4th as a holiday. It wasn’t until 1870 that the U.S. Congress passed a law to establish the holiday nationwide at the federal level. In 1938, the law was amended to make Independence Day a paid federal holiday for employees.

Independence Day Traditions

There are a number of traditions that Americans follow on Independence Day, including:

  • Fireworks. Communities and cities across the United States hold fireworks displays on the evening of Independence Day. The traditions seems to have grown out of the practice of firing guns to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Cookouts and Picnics. Many American families have picnics or cook outdoors on a grill for Independence Day. Every year Americans eat more than 150 million hot dogs during Independence Day celebrations and more than 190 million pounds of beef and 700 million pounds of chicken are consumed.
  • Parades and Festivals. Communities may hold large parades with floats and bands in honor of Independence Day. Some also have festivals and carnivals to celebrate the day.
  • Travel. Because many people have Independence Day off from work, the weekend closest to the holiday has become the busiest time for travel in the United States. Each year, more than 40 million people travel at least 50 miles over Independence Day weekend.
  • Flying Flags. Business and homeowners will often fly a flag in front of their homes on Independence Day. It’s customary to take the flag down at dusk unless it is illuminated by a light.
  • Wearing Red, White and Blue. As a symbol of patriotism, many Americans wear the colors of the American flag on Independence Day.