The Fourth of July is probably the most exciting of the federal holidays each year in America. Across this nation of ours, families and friends gather to celebrate the day when representatives of the 13 original colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in June of 1776. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence and two days later the delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
After the Revolutionary War, Americans commemorated the day each year. By the end of the 18th century, the two major political parties- Federalists and Democratic-Republicans had begun holding separate Independence Day celebrations in large cities. After the War of 1812 that once again found the United States facing down Great Britain, the patriotic celebrations became more widespread. July 4th was made a federal holiday by the U. S. Congress in 1870, however it did not become a paid holiday for government employees until 1941. In the years since, the importance of the holiday declined, however it remains today a symbol of patriotism.
The commercialization of the holiday can be found in most retail stores. Using the American flag as the symbol of the holiday, shoppers can find plates, napkins, cups, banners, clothing and shoes all decorated in the traditional red, white and blue often featuring stars and stripes if not the flag itself.
Fireworks displays are also a traditional part of the annual celebration in villages the size of Enon to the nation’s capital in Washington, D. C. The shows are often planned to include musical accompaniment featuring tunes such as The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. For those old enough to remember, it was the song used in the Puffed Wheat commercials featuring the simulated sound of canons. Local radio stations often live stream a sound track for community firework displays featuring oldies such as Kate Smith singing the long time favorite God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and Lee Greenwood with the more modern God Bless the U. S. A. Following 9-11, Toby Keith wrote his version of a country patriotic song titled Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue which is often featured on local radio stations. At some time during the holiday, Americans will be treated to various renditions of The Star Spangled Banner written by Frances Scott Key in 1814 which became the National Anthem in 1931. However the all time favorite Fourth of July music has got to be The Stars and Stripes Forever, declared the United States’ National March by Congress in 1987. Written in 1896 by John Philip Sousa, a Marine Band leader from 1880 to 1892 this rousing military march used as the background for firework displays and played by high school bands in the community parade often leads to cheering from spectators as they watch the red, white and blue fill the sky over their hometown standing along the parade route each year.
From picnics, to baseball games and swimming pools, one thing will be certain. The end of the day will be filled with fireworks, patriotic music and memories that will last a lifetime as proud Americans celebrate Independence Day in our hometown.