Some two hundred thirty years after the signing of our final draft of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, most people have forgotten “why” we shoot off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. Most people think that it has to do with the Battle at Fort Henry, and Francis Scott Key’s dramatization of “bombs bursting in air” in our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
However, the truth is even more simple.
By 1776, Fireworks had been used at important events for hundreds of years. In fact, it was John Adams who made them into the tradition which has withstood the test of time. In a letter to his wife, he wrote:
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…
During the first Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia in 1777, the public reading of the Declaration was complemented by bells, candles, cannons and firecrackers.
In succeeding years, celebrations increased, but it was only in 1941 that Congress finally declared Independence Day an official Federal Holiday. It was probably during that time that the use of Fireworks first became misinterpreted as student textbooks were updated.
However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sentiment that Fireworks are representative of guns and bombs. On this day, we should all remember the tyranny this country left behind, and the devastation that followed after the years of war.
We would do well to remember how our forefathers fought and died in order for us to attain our Freedom, remembering that the road to Freedom was paved with the blood of those who fought for it.
But we should also remember that this is a day to be celebrated, not mourned. It is a day to thumb our noses at tyranny. It is a day to remember that we are one country, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
Happy Fourth of July, America.