Yesterday marked the country’s 237th birthday! Fourth of July celebrations electrified the country from coast to coast.
From the Statue of Liberty’s reopening ceremony (it had been closed for repairs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy), and President Obama honoring military men and women on the White House’s south lawn, to 124 individuals (from over 50 different countries) becoming U.S. citizens, and a touching tribute to the 19 fallen firefighters who fought the recent wild blazes in Arizona, the day was filled with touching and symbolic ceremonies.
And in Boston, the festivities went on, even with the scorching heat and the lingering idea that the Marathon bombers had once considered committing their heinous act on the Fourth of July. The city’s Esplanade had heightened security and law enforcement presence, and at its peak, state police estimated approximately 300,000 people were in attendance, according to The Boston Globe’s Maria Cramer and Jeremy C. Fox. “As the fireworks lit up a cloudless sky, the voice of Mayor Thomas M. Menino was piped through the speakers, championing the city’s strength and resilience,” reported Cramer and Fox.
Yesterday was also filled with picnics and hot dog eating contests, parades and barbecues, baseball games and firework extravaganzas. But have you ever wondered how Independence Day was celebrated in its early days?
Fourth of July or Independence Day became an official federal holiday in 1941 to commemorate the birth of the United States in 1776. The Continental Congress voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, a policy statement that described that the thirteen colonies were now self-governing and no longer under British rule.
According to History.com (History Channel), celebrations that first summer in 1776 included some of the colonists “holding mock funerals for King George III, as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.” History.com adds, “Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption.”
National Geographic’s Brian Handwerk says that ceremonies featuring armaments were at one time even a full day affair. “Nineteenth-century Independence Days featured noisy artillery salutes, as explosives left over from various wars were fired all day during the 4th of July,” Handwerk reports. “The practice faded as cannons aged and fell into disrepair.” Handwerk adds that before red, white and blue became the official holiday colors, military uniforms and buildings were embellished with greenery.
Perhaps you and your family and friends have started your own Fourth of July traditions. What’s your favorite way to celebrate the holiday?