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Happy 4th of July

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 6.40.02 AMTo celebrate our independence we wear red, white and blue, gather with friends and family for backyard picnics, light firecrackers, and watch community fireworks shows. Is this the way our country’s birthday has always been celebrated? Why do we shoot fireworks? Who decided hot dogs are eaten at picnics?

While researching, I discovered that maybe we should be celebrating two days earlier since on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence and declared the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. It took two more days of debate for the delegates to agree upon the Declaration of Independence and have paper copies printed to distribute to states for ratification. Because those papers were dated July 4, 1776, the date was adopted as our country’s beginning.

Historians claim that only two people signed on the 4th: Secretary Charles Thompson and John Hancock, who was the president of Congress. About a month later, August 2, all fifty-six congressional delegates had signed their names on the document.

One of our founding fathers, John Adams, wrote, “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.” He was right that we Americans continue to commemorate this significant event and we can give him credit for the tradition of fireworks. He wrote that America’s birthday should be honored with “games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

The holiday has always been celebrated with loud bangs and fire. On July 4, 1777, the first celebratory fireworks to mark the Declaration of Independence were set off in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cannons and explosives left over from wars were part of our country’s earliest celebrations. By 1783, fireworks were easily available for public purchase and this year about 14,000 fireworks displays are planned nationwide.

It’s estimated that 150 million hot dogs will be consumed during the 4th of July week. And it’s no surprise that July is National Hot Dog Month. According to urban legend, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island began on July 4, 1916 when four immigrants challenged each other to a hot dog eating contest to prove their loyalty to America. Whoever ate the most hot dogs was the most patriotic.

But there are no records to prove this contest’s origin. The competition continues and now there are separate events for men and women and the contest is televised.

Like many of you, Husband and I will celebrate in all the traditional ways. I’ll eat only one hot dog and sparklers are my choice for backyard fireworks. And maybe we should all take time to include a reading of the Declaration of Independence as was done during the earliest Independence Day celebrations.

A copy is available at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/ or listen at https://learcenter.org/event/dramatic-reading-of-the-declaration-of-independence. It’s worth fifteen minutes.

Happy Birthday America!

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