The 4th of July, the day the United States became a country as they embraced the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The thirteen colonies of that day would grow into 50 states, enduring several brutal wars — the Civil War, WWI and WWII, to name the largest of them, before it really surfaced on the world stage as a superpower. Countless lives were lost in securing all of the things we have today in these wars, and many others. The United States is not a perfect place, and while its freedom ought to be enjoyed, that same freedom must be upheld every single day by its citizens. Traditional American values can be applied to the modern world — things like perseverance, independent thought, chasing the life of your dreams regardless of religion or class, and the constant desire to improve both yourself and the nation in which you live.
Holidays are just days in the year — they only have value because we endow it upon them. Had the Declaration of Independence been adopted on some other day, the 4th of July would roll around as unremarkable as the days that preceded it. But these days are more than simple anniversaries of an event — they are a reminder of why such events are so significant. Independence Day in particular is a reminder of the men and women that built this country, and the values they founded it upon.
Sure, these are things Americans ought to remember all the time. But, like myself, they are human and it’s easy to forget. Holidays like the 4th of July are good reminders of those things.
And those holidays have been celebrated in one way or another for a very long time. The first 4th of July celebration was in 1785, known as the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. The holiday wasn’t even officially recognized across the nation until 1870, and in 1938 it finally became a paid federal holiday.
Everyone celebrates it differently, be it at a concert, at home with their families, at a monument or memorial, or somewhere else entirely. Many are abroad, at war or in the service of some other cause. Even in the U.S., some doctors, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other necessary ’round the clock duties are working harder than ever right now.
Here are some pictures of people celebrating the 4th of July throughout some of our country’s more recent years. What are some of your favorite pictures?
Featured image: This view, from the Virginia side of the Potomac River, shows the moon above the Iwo Jima Statue as fireworks burst over Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1966. The Washington Monument, obelisk, and the Lincoln Memorial can be seen in the background. | AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi