Unlike Veterans Day and Memorial Day — solemn occasions for Americans — Independence Day is a time of pure celebration. It has been that way for 242 years.
According to History.com, in the summer of 1776, some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.
The celebrations continued during the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Concerts, bonfires and parades were held. Cannons and muskets were fired.
History.com states that even George Washington got swept up in the merriment. During the Revolutionary War, in 1778, Washington is said to have issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence.
Fast-forward to present day, and the revelry continues on the Fourth of July, our most patriotic holiday. There are parades, barbecues and fireworks, and lots of flag-waving.
Independence Day is a celebration, just as it was in 1776, so enjoy the festivities today, but take a moment to remember why we celebrate.
Who better to encapsulate why that is than one of our Founding Fathers? Ten days before he died, on July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter declining an invitation to attend the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by him.
In the letter, Jefferson stated: "The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
Happy Independence Day!