Happy 4th of July! Hope you’re doing something fun on the 4th — barbecue, picnic, beach outing, pool day, even sitting at home enjoying the birth of our country. Yup, happy 242nd birthday America!
All this excitement over the 4th of July got me thinking, how did 4th of July become the day we celebrate our independence? The cynical side of me says it’s because there weren’t any other holidays in July, so they decided to add a really big one! Something bigger than, say, International Cherry Pit Spitting Day (July 7), Cow Appreciation Day (July 15) or Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day (July 27).
I joke, of course, celebrating 4th of July has been around since, well, 1776, even though it wasn’t made an official national holiday until 1870. What were they waiting for? The city of Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, celebrated the anniversary a year later in 1777 with what John Adams called “illuminations” and a parade.
The first state to make it a holiday was Massachusetts in 1781, and The White House held its first 4th of July party in 1801. And the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the 4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island, which began in 1785. So I’m not sure why it took almost a hundred years to make it official!
The funny thing is that some folks, like future second president John Adams, thought it should have been celebrated on July 2, which is when the declaration was actually signed, instead of July 4th, when the Continental Congress was formally adopted. In fact, it’s said that he refused invitations to celebrate on the 4th because of that. Party pooper!
Ironically, Adams — and Thomas Jefferson, too — died on July 4th, both in 1826, the 50th anniversary. Only one president was born on July 4th, our 30th, Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge in 1872.
Funny story about the soft-spoken Coolidge. A woman seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” His reply: “You lose.”
Here are some other fun facts about the 4th of July:
> In 1776, about 2.5 million people lived in the United States versus 326 million in 2018.
>”Yankee Doodle,” a popular American patriotic song, was originally sung prior to the Revolutionary War by British military officers, who were mocking the unorganized and buckskin-wearing “Yankees.”
>The National Anthem was originally an English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.”
>The average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45, with the youngest, at age 27, Thomas Lynch, Jr. of South Carolina and the oldest Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, who was 70. Thomas Jefferson was 33.
>One out of eight signers were educated at Harvard, seven total.
> Americans consume around 155 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July each year.
>We also spend $92 million on chips, $167.5 million on watermelon, and $341.4 million on beer.
>87.5% ($2.8 million) of imported U.S. flags are from China.
>97% ($190.7 million) of imported fireworks are from China.
> There are more than 14,000 fireworks displays across the country on 4th of July.
>Macys 4th of July Fireworks Show is largest in the country, with more than 40,000 shells launched, with up to 1,000 launched per second, as high as 1,000 feet in the sky.
OK, I know, I’m spending a lot here talking about the 4th of July, but what other day is there to celebrate that has as much importance? Especially these days!
July is National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month and National Picnic Month, so there’s that. But Compliment Your Mirror Day (July 3)? Sidewalk Egg Frying Day (also the 4th, sacrilege!)? National Nude Day (14th)? Be a Dork Day (the 15th)? Or Yellow Pig Day (17th)? See what I mean?
My personal favorites are National Tequila Day on July 24th and Mutt’s Day on the 31st.
I’m going to leave you with some words from John Adams, writing to his wife Abigail, a day after the declaration was adopted, saying that Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Enjoy your illuminations!