There’s nothing more American than celebrations for the Fourth of July.
For nearly 250 years, we’ve been taking time during the heat of summer to remember that fateful July day when the future was sealed for our country. And, really, the celebrations remain much as they were that first July holiday.
Considered the curmudgeon of the founding fathers, John Adams insisted for the rest of his life that the celebrations should happen on July 2; but the fourth day of July was chosen for good reason. The vote to declare independence from Britain was taken on July 2, but the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted by the Continental Congress two days later. The final signatures weren’t obtained until Aug. 2, but the struggle for independence from Britain was already underway.
The first celebration of this momentous day took place the very next year in 1777 and has continued annually – though organized events don’t seem to have gained popularity until after 1812. The Fourth of July was established as a federal holiday by Congress in 1870 and became a paid holiday in 1938. These early festivities included frivolity that we would recognize today including food and drink, music and parades, but also included mock funerals for England’s King George III and public readings of the Declaration of Independence.
Since those days we may have given up the practice of hosting mock funerals for royalty, but we’ve certainly added a lot of fun. Since the end of the war for independence, Americans have enjoyed hosting Fourth of July barbecues, waving sparklers and American flags, attending parades and rodeos, listening to patriotic music and the ever-popular wearing of red, white and blue apparel.
But there’s one means of celebration that probably comes to mind first when you think of the Fourth of July: fireworks. Fireworks themselves have been around for a lot longer than our country, so how did they become so ubiquitous during this holiday? The answer is that the precedent was set from the beginning. During that first anniversary celebration in 1777 in Philadelphia, cannons from ships on the river fired a 13-gun salute to honor the 13 original colonies. And that evening, a fireworks display also began and ended with 13 rockets. So you could say that we have been using fireworks to celebrate the birth of our nation from the very start.
Fourth of July Celebrations
No matter where you are in Oklahoma when the Fourth rolls around, there are celebrations galore. Be sure to check websites for the latest info.
Bethany Freedom Fest
6700 N.W. 36th St.
Events through July 4
Jay Fireworks Display
400 W. Monroe St.
Rockin’ the Park
Through July 2
Downtown Medicine Park
Celebration in the Heartland
Buck Thomas Park, Moore
Folds of Honor FreedomFest
River West Festival Park, Tulsa
Main image cutline: Oklahomans have always celebrated the Fourth of July in style. Photo by Paul B. Southerland/Oklahoma Historical Society