It wasn’t until 1870 that July 4th became a national holiday in the United States, and it wasn’t until 1941 that it became a paid federal holiday. But it has been celebrated since 1776. July 4th 1776 was when the 13 Colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring that they were no longer part of the British Empire.
“Early Fourth of July Celebrations: In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by 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. 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.”
Spirit of ’76 by Archibald MacNeal Willard, 1875
“John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826–the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.”
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