What is the real meaning behind the Fourth of July? Get Independence Day (U.S.) dates, a brief history of this all-important American holiday, and some fun facts.
When Is Independence Day (U.S.)?
The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies in 1776.
On July 4th, the United States observes a federal holiday in honor of the Declaration of Independence.If the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, the federal observed holiday is the following Monday, July 5. If the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, the observed holiday for most federal employees (but not all) is Friday, July 3.
|Year||Independence Day (U.S.)|
|2016||Monday, July 4|
|2017||Tuesday, July 4|
|2018||Wednesday, July 4|
Celebrating the Fourth of July
In the United States, Independence Day is a federal holiday traditionally observed with parades, band concerts, picnic food, and fireworks (just as John Adams had hoped, as you’ll see below).
In order to celebrate the Fourth of July with as much patriotism as possible, many Americans like to have picnics or barbecues and are sure to have the American flag waving outside their homes. Take a look at our Fourth of July recipes to have a delicious picnic or barbecue—and for a list of patriotic desserts!
Also, be sure to check the American Flag Guidelines so that you can proudly and properly display your flag.
Though most people use Independence Day to celebrate the U.S. flag, don’t forget that Flag Day, on June 14, is another perfect opportunity to commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes.
What Is Independence Day?
Independence is declared; it must be maintained.
–Sam Houston, American politician (1793–1863)
The Declaration of Independence is America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom and the document upon which the nation’s founding principles were established.
The Second Continental Congress actually made its decree for freedom on July 2, 1776, signing the Lee Resolution. Two days later, on July 4, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the alarm for freedom was sounded at Independence Hall with the Liberty Bell. It was on August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, that The Declaration of Independence was made official.
John Adams’ famous letter to his wife, Abigail, captures the spirit of the times. Writing on July 3, 1776 from Philadelphia, he said, “Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfully do…’ This … Day … 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 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.”
Text from The Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration at www.archives.gov.
More Fourth of July History
July 4, 1776
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and formed the United States of America.
July 4, 1776
Thomas Jefferson noted in his “Weather Memorandum Book” that the weather was cloudy, the temperature 76ºF.
July 4, 1826
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died.
July 4, 1884
The Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the U.S. by France.
July 4, 1911
It was a hot Fourth of July in New England. All-time state records were set in Nashua, New Hampshire (106°F), and Vernon, Vermont (105°F).
Independence Day Trivia
Why is the name “John Hancock” synonymous with “your signature?”
Hancock’s bold signature on the Declaration of Independence dwarfed the signatures of the other signers. Legend says that Hancock wanted the king of England to see the rebellious signature without having to wear his spectacles!