July 4th, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. In 2010 what does that mean? To some people it means huge sales at their favorite stores. Other people it’s a day off from work. Some it’s time to shoot off fireworks for several days, all hours of the day or night. My dog freaks out for days and hides under the bed. Our street usually looks like a war zone on July 5, which is irritating since fireworks are illegal in our town and most of my neighbors don’t clean up the mess.
Independence Day means a lot to me. It does include having a day off from work; it also means getting together with friends and family. But it also means remembering what our founding fathers sacrificed so we could celebrate our independence. Fifty-six men signed a document that was called the Declaration of Independence even though it was considered treasonous against the English crown and the men, who signed, were in danger of being executed. They risked their lives so we could be free from the dictatorship of Great Britain. This was on July 2, 1776. Yet we celebrate on July 4 because that is the day when the Continental Congress adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
From July 8, 1776, until the next month, the document was read publicly and people celebrated whenever they heard it. The next year, in Philadelphia, bells rang and ships fired guns, candles and firecrackers were lighted. The start of all Independence celebrations. But did you know Congress didn’t declare the 4th of July a federal holiday until 1941? It took them 165 years to decide our independence day should be official. It is now 234 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. That sounds like a long time ago, but really it isn’t.
I remember celebrating as a kid and thinking about what the Continental Congress did for this country. My family used to go to Williams, Iowa, a town of about 450 people and 0.9 square miles wide. We would participate in the parade and then hang out in the town square/park for the day. I remember throwing candy from a float or from my Uncle Floyd’s boat, which he pulled behind his truck. Then the floats would be parked by the grain elevator and people would walk up and down the street looking at the floats. Afterwards I would sit on a blanket under a shade tree with my grandma listening to a band playing patriotic music while different clubs sold food. We would people watch for hours and laugh a lot. Then later we would walk over to the football field to watch the fireworks. Fireworks in the 70s were way different than now. Today there are smiley faces, stars and other creative explosions.
Lately, I’ve stayed home, made my dog feel safe and watched fireworks from three different celebrations from my driveway. I don’t have to deal with the crowds and I can relax at my own home. This year we are celebrating at a friend’s farm. It will be like old times, friends, family, homemade food, games and then fireworks. I wonder if there will be a band.
John Adams, the first vice-president and the Second President of the United States was one of the members who signed the Declaration of Independence and I think he may have predicted what this country would be doing 234 years later. He proclaimed: “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.” I think we have done John Adams proud with our celebrations.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.