The 4th of July is when America celebrates declaring itself free of rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain. It is obviously a very important date in America, and it is cause for a great celebration. The American Revolutionary War that eventually won them sovereignty is a period in their history that gives America a crucial sense of identity and solidly plants a struggle for freedom at the heart of their national character.
A Little History
After the Seven Years War between England and France, both France and England were left depleted. In a bid to raise tax money to pay their national debt, England began to tax the American colonies. This lead to uprisings (including the Boston tea party), skirmishes, and eventually a full out rebellion in 1774.
By April in 1775, the American colonists had won complete control of the colonies, formed a congress, voted for independence, and on the 4th of July 1776, the continental congress formally declares independence.
The war doesn’t end there. It keeps going for several years as Britain retakes territory, and French/Spanish fuel the conflict and provide support to America.
While this seems like an out and out American affair, it becomes a global conflict and just like after the Seven Years War, the European parties are left in debt. The French participation in this war and their financial situation after it are actually one of the causes of the French Revolution!
Now that you know the (very) brief history, it’s easier to understand why Americans talk about freedom and why its held in such high regard. Freedom from oppression and the right to self determination were the principles that sparked a war and forged a nation.
On this 4th of July, 238 years after America declared itself and all its citizens free, many people will be out in the streets celebrating. While they may not be celebrating a revolution, they will definitely be honoring the freedom their country provides.
What to Expect
4th of July celebrations take the same form as Memorial Day, only with a little more patriotic bend to them. You’ll be seeing as much red, white, and blue, but unlike Memorial Day, it will be less commercial. Consider your experience of Memorial day to be a warm up.
Here are a few tips on how to best enjoy the festivities:
- Fewer stores will be open, so if you need party supplies, head out early and expect many things to be out of stock.
- Fireworks are a very big part of the festivities. Whatever city you’re in will be shooting them off.
- If you’re in the wilderness or somewhere rural, feel encouraged to buy your own fireworks (check local regulations first).
- Many cities will have parades, concerts or some wonderful combination of both. Go down and wave a flag.
- Have a beach bonfire. Nothing says “America!” like roasting hot dogs over an open fire with friends.
Wish a stranger a “happy fourth of July”. There’s no better way to connect warmly with a stranger than a simple greeting and a smile on Independence Day.
Remember, this is your opportunity to drown yourself in all things American, wave a flag, make some friends, and really get into the swing of American culture. Almost everyone you meet will be in a great mood because everyone is celebrating the freedom that brings the whole country together.
All things considered, America is a pretty young country, but it was born in a time when new ideas were emerging about how to think and how to live. For its time it was wildly progressive. It was the first country founded on Enlightenment principles and its founders fought hard to have the rights they deserved. While the celebration today may be less about the fight, it is unarguably a joyous celebration of the freedom that came from that fight.
Americans are fiercely proud of these ideals and they are good ones to be proud of. If there’s any chance you can attend an event that speaks to the historical significance of American Independence or that speaks to the ideals of the first continental congress you should partake.
If you find yourself at any other cultural event, use it as an opportunity to unwind and relax in the company of friends and celebrate the opportunities that America grants.