Independence Day 2021: what is the US 4 July holiday, and how do Americans celebrate it?

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 10:12 am
US flags are flown all over America, as people celebrate Independence Day on July 4 (Picture: Getty Images)

Americans are some of the most patriotic people in the world, waving their stars and stripes as a proud nod to their diverse country.

Each year on July 4, the US marks Independence Day, with celebrations including playing and watching sports, fireworks, parades, concerts and hosting street parties.

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So, what is Independence Day, how is it marked across the 50 states - and how will it be celebrated this year? This is what you need to know.

What is Independence Day?

Independence Day is a national federal holiday in the United States.

It is a celebration of the original 13 colonies of the states becoming legally independent from being ruled by the UK’s monarchy.

On 2 June 1776, the Continental Congress - a meeting made up of representatives from the colonies - voted to make America united, free and independent states.

On 4 July, the day annually celebrated, the United States was officially declared independent.

It was on this day that five of the representatives wrote and published the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, Thomas Jefferson was its principal author.

The vote and subsequent declaration followed years of American revolution against King George III, then monarch of Britain.

Jefferson wrote of the King: “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemispere, or to incure miserable death in their transportation hither.”

Thomas Jefferson and the other signatory of the declaration, John Adams, both coincidentally died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826.

Both had served as presidents of the US and died of natural causes.

How was the Fourth of July celebrated historically?

Since the declaration was signed, there have been parties and parades to mark the day’s significance.

On the first anniversary of independence in 1977, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once in the morning and once in the evening in Rhode Island. Elsewhere, the Continental Congress enjoyed a former dinner in Philadelphia.

Across the US, people marked the day with toasts, speeches, prayers, music, US army parades and fireworks.

By 1978, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Docked ships were dressed in patriotic coloured bunting.

In Paris, John Adams and fellow Continental Congressman Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for the US friends.

It was not until 1870 that the US Congress made the day a holiday for their federal employees. It took a further 68 years for it to become a paid federal holiday.

Historically, if the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday, it would not be celebrated until Monday, July 5.

How is 4th July celebrated now?

As July is usually a hot month in the US, most celebrations take place outdoors.

Baseball and American football games, barbecues and fireworks are synonymous with the day - as Americans tuck into national dishes. From burgers to fried chicken, hotdogs and cookies, the day is a true indulgence of the all-American life.

States will also hold parades and concerts in their cities and a salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a ‘salute to the union,’ is fired on Independence Day at noon.

New York City has the largest fireworks display in the country sponsored by Macy's, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics being let off in the past.

Elsewhere, famous displays take place in Seattle on Lake Union; in San Diego over Mission Bay, in Boston on the Charles River and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The holiday is also one of the busiest in the US for traffic, as many families will use the three-day weekend to visit family in other states and take vacations.

On a smaller scale, families and friends will come together to enjoy food, dress up in red, white and blue and decorate their homes in patriotic colours and US flags.

How will it be celebrated this year?

In 2021, the US will resume celebrating the national holiday, following last year’s cancelled events.

The coronavirus pandemic spoiled all celebrations last year, but even the White House is hosting a party this July 4.

CNN reports that the White House is planning to host roughly 1,000 guests, the largest event to be hosted at the president’s residence since the start of the new administration.

President Biden is expected to use the event to thank the country for its continued efforts to limit the spread of Covid, and express his gratitude at the vaccination effort which has enabled more than 150 million American adults to be fully vaccinated.

Across the US, fireworks and celebrations will take place in Washington, DC, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and San Francisco, among others.

American network channel, CNN, will also host a special ‘Fourth in America Special,’ with Live performances from the likes of Bebe Rexha, Billy Ray Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas, Flo Rida, Nelly and Ne-Yo.

The show will air on CNN on July 4, from 7 p.m. ET.

It will also be streamed live on the channel’s website throughout the day.