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Fourth of July: Origins, Traditions, and Fireworks

by Michael Nguyen
10 comments
Fourth of July traditions

Fourth of July: Origins, Traditions, and Fireworks

The Fourth of July epitomizes the essence of America with its parades, cookouts, cold beer, and, of course, fireworks. However, these pyrotechnics come with risks, leading to over 10,000 emergency room visits each year. Nevertheless, fireworks remain at the heart of Independence Day, a holiday that has been celebrated for 247 years.

Here are five essential facts about the Fourth of July, including the holiday’s origin and the incorporation of fireworks into its traditions.

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Origin of Independence Day:
The holiday commemorates the Second Continental Congress’ unanimous adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This historic document declared the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. One year later, Philadelphia witnessed a spontaneous celebration marking the anniversary of American independence. However, it took some time for such observations to become commonplace across the nation, with the trend solidifying after the War of 1812. Notably, significant events like groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were often scheduled to coincide with Fourth of July festivities during the 19th century.

How Fireworks Became a July Fourth Tradition:
Fireworks displays have been an integral part of Independence Day celebrations from the very beginning. Founding Father John Adams predicted this development. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, dated July 3, 1776, Adams wrote that the commemoration of America’s independence “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.”

Fireworks existed centuries before the United States came into being. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, historians believe that fireworks were first developed in ancient China during the second century B.C. They achieved explosive effects by throwing bamboo stalks into fires, which caused air pockets within the stalks to overheat and explode. By the 15th century, fireworks had become widely used in religious festivals and public entertainment in Europe. Early U.S. settlers carried on these traditions, ultimately incorporating fireworks into their Fourth of July celebrations.

Has a President Ever Refused to Celebrate?
Presidents from George Washington to Joe Biden have celebrated the nation’s birth on the Fourth of July, with one notable exception—John Adams. Despite his aforementioned letter to his wife, Adams declined to celebrate the holiday on July 4 because he believed that July 2 was the actual Independence Day. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted in favor of the resolution for independence, although the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence occurred two days later. Adams remained steadfast in his view, rejecting invitations to festivals and other events, even during his presidency. Ironically, both Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, passed away on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the document’s formal adoption.

The Popularity of Fireworks:
Consumer sales of fireworks have experienced significant growth over the past two decades. Statistics from the American Pyrotechnics Association reveal that American consumers spent $407 million on fireworks in 2000. By 2022, that figure had risen to $2.3 billion. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a notable surge in consumer sales, with expenditures increasing from $1 billion in 2019 to $1.9 billion in 2020.

Fireworks Safety:
Despite widespread educational efforts, thousands of Americans continue to suffer injuries caused by fireworks each year, and this trend persists. In 2022, 10,200 people sought treatment at emergency rooms, and 11 deaths were attributed to fireworks. About three-quarters of these injuries occurred during the period surrounding the Fourth of July. Common injuries involve the head, face, ears, eyes, fingers, hands, and legs.

Dr. Tiffany Osborn, an emergency room physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, has witnessed severe cases, including individuals who have lost fingers, eyes, or sustained significant facial injuries. Children under 15 represent nearly one-third of those injured by fireworks, with sparklers often responsible for burns in children under the age of 5. Dr. Osborn suggests providing small children with glow sticks or colorful streamers as alternatives.

For those planning to handle fireworks, it is essential to choose a flat, hard, level surface away from structures and flammable objects. Individuals responsible for the fireworks should avoid alcohol consumption, and children should never ignite them. It is advisable to have a bucket or hose nearby in case of fire or explosion. Fireworks should be ignited one at a time, and individuals should move away promptly after lighting them. Malfunctioning fireworks should never be relit or handled. Afterward, it is crucial to dispose of the remains by shoveling them up and soaking them before discarding them safely.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fourth of July traditions

Q: What is the origin of Independence Day?

A: Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declaring the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain.

Q: How did fireworks become a tradition on the Fourth of July?

A: Fireworks have been part of Independence Day celebrations since the beginning. Founding Father John Adams envisioned them as part of the festivities, and early U.S. settlers carried on the tradition from Europe where fireworks were already used for religious festivals and public entertainment.

Q: Has a U.S. President ever refused to celebrate the Fourth of July?

A: Yes, John Adams refused to celebrate on July 4th because he believed July 2nd was the true Independence Day. He turned down invitations to events, even during his presidency. Ironically, both Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, died on July 4, 1826.

Q: How popular are fireworks during the Fourth of July?

A: Consumer sales of fireworks have grown significantly in recent years. In 2022, Americans spent $2.3 billion on fireworks, with sales experiencing a surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales are expected to rise even more this year.

Q: Are fireworks dangerous?

A: Yes, fireworks can be dangerous. Thousands of Americans are injured each year, with about three-quarters of injuries occurring around the Fourth of July. Safety precautions such as handling them responsibly, avoiding alcohol, and keeping them away from structures and flammable objects are crucial to prevent accidents.

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10 comments

FireworksFanatic July 5, 2023 - 10:33 am

omg! fireworks r so cool! they’ve been around 4 sooo long, even b4 america! cant wait 2 c them on the 4th of july!

Reply
HistoryBuff101 July 5, 2023 - 11:41 am

luv learnin abt the origin of independence day. such a significant holiday in american history. thx 4 sharin these facts! #ProudToBeAmerican

Reply
JohnDoe72 July 5, 2023 - 1:18 pm

this is gr8 info abt da 4th of july. i luv fireworks on independnce day. its so amazin how they became a tradishun. kudos to john adams for predictin it!

Reply
SafetyFirst July 5, 2023 - 1:46 pm

fireworks r awesome but can b dangerous too. its important 2 handle dem with care & follow safety guidelines. stay safe, everyone!

Reply
PatriotGal July 5, 2023 - 7:11 pm

i nevr knew dat john adams didnt celebrate the 4th of july on july 4th itself. so intrestin! also, fireworks sales r off the charts. gonna stock up this year!

Reply
JohnDoe72 July 6, 2023 - 7:07 pm

this is gr8 info abt da 4th of july. i luv fireworks on independnce day. its so amazin how they became a tradishun. kudos to john adams for predictin it!

Reply
FireworksFanatic July 7, 2023 - 12:13 am

omg! fireworks r so cool! they’ve been around 4 sooo long, even b4 america! cant wait 2 c them on the 4th of july!

Reply
HistoryBuff101 July 7, 2023 - 6:01 am

luv learnin abt the origin of independence day. such a significant holiday in american history. thx 4 sharin these facts! #ProudToBeAmerican

Reply
PatriotGal July 7, 2023 - 7:00 am

i nevr knew dat john adams didnt celebrate the 4th of july on july 4th itself. so intrestin! also, fireworks sales r off the charts. gonna stock up this year!

Reply
SafetyFirst July 7, 2023 - 8:39 am

fireworks r awesome but can b dangerous too. its important 2 handle dem with care & follow safety guidelines. stay safe, everyone!

Reply

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