Fireworks. Hamburgers and hotdogs. Friends and family. Bug spray. These are some of the staples of a successful summer Fourth of July celebration. Most of us associate these things with the holiday, but do we know this history behind the day? When did it become a recognized holiday?

History of the Holiday

In 1775, the Revolutionary War started; the beginning of the American colonies’ quest for freedom from Britain, though not all colonists were convinced that it was the right decision. It wasn’t until a year or so later, that the majority of American colonists were pro Independence. On June 7th 1776, they decided to fully pursue Independence and less than a month later, on July 2nd, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by Congress.

While it was celebrated as the day of America’s Independence unofficially ever since 1776, Congress made July 4th an official federal holiday in 1870. It wasn’t until 1941, however, that it became a paid holiday for all federal employees.

Today the holiday is celebrated with elaborate firework displays, themed parades, festive fun runs/5ks, and outdoor barbecues and picnics. People display the American flag; don red, white, and blue apparel; and shout their country pride from the rooftops. Though the political importance of the holiday is no longer as significant, it continues to be an important day to portray patriotism and American pride.

Local celebrations

There is no shortage of fun ways to celebrate the holiday, especially in the Northern Virginia area. Here are just a few:

  • An American Celebration – Mount Vernon; Join George and Martha Washington in a salute to the first commander-in-chief. Including daytime fireworks and military re-enactments! End the day with a special performance by the National Concert Band.
  • Celebrate America – Manassas; Join the party (starting at 3pm) festivities including a watermelon eating contest and a bicycle decorating contest. Additionally, they have one of the largest fireworks displays in the area.
  • Herndon’s 4th of July Celebration – Herndon; Enjoy a free celebration with entertainment, arts and crafts, as well as a variety of games. The musically choreographed fireworks display will begin around 9:30pm.

And let’s not forget all the enjoyable options within DC, including:

  • Washington, DC’s Independence Day Parade – Constitution Avenue and 7th to 17th at 11:45am
  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival – Circus Arts and American Folk from 11am to 5pm
  • 4th of July at the National Archives – Celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from 10am to 5:30pm
  • Concert on the Washington Monument Grounds – Sylvan Theater from 6pm to 9pm
  • A Capitol Fourth Concert – West Lawn of the US Capitol from 8pm to 9:30pm
  • 4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall – Around 9:15pm

Whether you celebrate with fireworks or a party or neither, we wish you and your family a safe and fun Fourth of July!