For the past 239 years there has been one day each year when every American pauses to commemorate thier homeland; a day when national pride pumps through the hearts of every citizen. On this day, the country dresses in stars and stripes, and it’s hard to find any open space that doesn’t smell of barbecues! Of course, we are talking about The Fourth of July, or Independence Day.
But what makes this date so important?
To understand this, we have to go back to 1776 in the midst of the American Revolution. At this time, it was already clear that the gap between the 13 English colonies in the New World (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and South, Virginia and Georgia) and the British Empire could not be resolved, mainly because of the taxes imposed by England. On 2nd of July 1776 in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress took place (the deliberative assembly of the Thirteen Colonies during the colonial period until the American Revolution), during which a resolution of independence from Britain was proposed, which was met with a large consensus. On this day, and thus, not on July 4, the "Declaration of Independence" was compiled and signed, written by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman and Benjamin Franklin, who were known as the "Committee of Five”.
On July 4, however, the Declaration was approved and made public, which is considered the Act that gave rise to America in the sense of the United States. The 13 Colonies merged and declared themselves a single Independent state: the United States of America.
Obviously the matter did not end there, as the war continued and George Washington’s US Army defeated the English only a few years later, in 1781. However, definitive independence did not come until 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. In 1787 it was approved before the US Constitution, and in 1789 George Washington was elected the first president. Since then, the number of States has gone from 13 to 50, and the population rocketed from 2.5 million to 316 million.
It is definitely worth being in any American city on July 4, as the anniversary is far more than just a festival: it is a real celebration of what it means to be American! From the smallest villages to the largest cities, you are guaranteed to witness a patriotic parade and be surrounded by flags and excess amounts of red, white and blue, before the traditional barbecues take place among friends and relatives, and before the spectacular evening firework displays.
John Adams, the second President of the United States, was perhaps taken literally when he wrote, on July 3, 1776: “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It 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.”
To the tune of the national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner and with their hands on their hearts, American citizens celebrate the pride of their flag and their country: "(...) And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave“
Certainly among the most fascinating celebrations worth mentioning are those in Washington DC, the political heart of the country. Enjoying the 4th of July surrounded by famous monuments, symbolic references, the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, etc. is a unique experience. Another great option is Boston, a city that contributed a lot during the independence process (just think back to the famous Boston Tea Party). The Boston Harborfest draws in about 3 million visitors each year for the occasion.
In New York City you cannot miss the fireworks show, which has been held by Macy's department store for the last 40 years. The event includes over 45,000 fireworks launched from four boats on the Hudson River between 24th and 42nd Street. Elsewhere around New York, Coney Island holds the curious "Nathan's Famous July 4th International Hot Dog-Eating Contest", a competition that sees spectators racing against the clock to eat hot dogs!
If you’re already packing your bags, do not forget to apply for your ESTA in advance. And, above all, have fun choosing your destination for this special day, which you have to experience at least once in your life!
Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.