How to Celebrate on the 4th of July

Just as summer starts to heat up, one of the funnest American holidays approaches: the 4th of July. Many countries similarly celebrate their own Independence Days, but the United States’ inevitably celebrates in its own distinctly American way. There’s no better way to enjoy some of American culture than to participate in this holiday, so to help you join in the festivities, we’re giving a little background into the 4th of July, and how you can celebrate.

What’s the 4th of July?

The 4th of July, July 4th, or Independence Day (as the holiday can be called) is a holiday intended to mark the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that marked the country’s autonomy from the rule of Great Britain. Though the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on July 2nd, 1776, the document was then ratified by the Congress on July 4th, and so the holiday is celebrated on this day, when the wording was actually approved. The 4th of July as a holiday symbolizes this declaration of freedom and independence, one of the fundamental values held by Americans.

Ideas for celebrating

It’s more than just a day off from work or from school. The 4th of July is a celebration is truly a celebration of the country, the American people, and the core values that founded this country. Right after the 4th of July was established as an American holiday, citizens would celebrate with “concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets, usually accompanied by public readings of the Declaration of Independence,” according to History.com. Since then, those festivities haven’t entirely changed – you can still attend concerts, bonfires, and parades in cities and towns across the U.S. However, today, it’s more commonplace to attend a fireworks display, than the firing of “cannons and muskets.” There are also now other ways Americans celebrate Independence Day, and though some of the newer traditions might be different than those of centuries ago, ultimately, the day is meant to emphasize a feeling of unity as Americans.

Attend a local parade

Many towns and cities throughout the country commemorate 4th of July with a parade. You’ll see citizens of that town or city line the streets, finding a spot and setting down their chairs or blankets to sit on to watch the parade procession. During the parade, you’ll see floats, cars, horses, and various groups from the town or neighboring towns walk down the street, waving American flags, wearing red, white and blue, and often playing or dancing to American folk songs. It can be really fun to watch the parade procession, so check out what’s happening in your town or city for the 4th of July, and find out the parade route so you can plan ahead.

Listen to a public reading of the Declaration of Independence

There are some cities and towns that will still do a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, so if you’re a history buff – or just curious as to what the Declaration of Independence actually says – consider seeing if there’s a reading local to you. NPR (National Public Radio) has done a reading of the Declaration on the air, if you’re interested but feel like listening from the comfort of your own home.

Watch a fireworks display

It’s normal to hear the sounds of fireworks on 4th of July, or even the weekend before or after the holiday. Many towns will select an evening (not always on the night of the holiday) to put on a fireworks display, where you’re able to watch the sky light up with various colors and designs as produced by the fireworks. Sometimes these shows are set to music, but other times, they’re simply there to delight and inspire awe. Grab some of your friends, and find a spot where you can get a great view of a local fireworks display.

Attend a barbecue

Arguably one of the easiest ways to spend your 4th of July is by attending (or even hosting your own) barbecue. A typical barbecue on the 4th of July consists of grilling hamburgers, and hot dogs, and serving up typical dishes like potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, and fresh fruit. People will gather outdoors or in a friend’s yard, and play lawn games, go swimming (if there’s a pool), and just have a good time together.

Attend an outdoor concert

Outdoor concerts are fun in the summertime, but are especially fun on the 4th of July. You can attend many across the country that will play American folk songs, and other songs to commemorate the holiday. You don’t have to know the songs to enjoy the music. You’ll get a great sense of American culture from the way that the concerts can bring people together and invite them to celebrate together.