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US Holidays: The Fourth of July

The 4th of July marks the anniversary of the official start of American independence—sort of. Though July 4th was the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, the delegates from the 13 original colonies approved the resolution of independence from British rule on July 2nd. That’s the date that many of them—including Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration—thought would be celebrated in the future.

There are many books about The Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War that followed its signing. One of the most well-known figures from this time is Paul Revere, who famously rode through the night to alert people that “The British are coming!” What many people don’t realize is that Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old girl, rode twice as far as Paul Revere—in the rain, no less. Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider tells Sybil’s story, aimed at 8 to 12 year old children. The Fourth of July Story and The Story of Thomas Jefferson are good books for slightly younger readers.

When celebrating the 4th of July these days, you’ll likely find more parades and barbecues, similar to Memorial Day. According to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, beer sales are at their highest around Independence Day (Memorial Day and Labor Day are right behind).

Americans consume approximately 150 million hotdogs on every 4th of July! Other grilled foods and picnic-type items are also popular. Desserts with a red, white, and blue color theme are especially popular, such as cakes that have been frosted white, then decorated with strawberries and blueberries.

The most iconic part about the 4th of July is the fireworks. About 16,000 July 4 fireworks displays happen around the country each year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Although municipal fireworks displays are common, they aren’t always held on the 4th itself, so check your local resources.

If you’re going to watch local fireworks from a park (this is often a popular place for a good view), it’s a good idea to get there early. Many people set up picnic blankets hours before dark to get the spots they want. Depending on where you live, both sunscreen and bug spray are necessary (in many places, mosquitos are at their worst right around sunset).

One of the most famous fireworks displays is in Washington D.C. Many patriotic festivities take place that week, including a concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building right before the fireworks themselves. This year’s concert includes performers such as Vanessa Williams, Pentatonix, Cynthia Erivo, and Alan Jackson. The entire celebration will be shown on PBS television (check local listings for the starting time in your area).

For an even bigger display, you can go to New York City to see the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks. (broadcast live on NBC starting at 8pm Eastern Standard Time). The show features many musical performers, including The United States Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus, and many stage actors & musicians from Broadway.

Personal, “backyard,” fireworks are also very popular, despite often being illegal. Larger fireworks can pose serious threats of starting fires, so many states have limited what is available or banned them outright.

Fireworks are also potentially hazardous to individuals. There are almost 13.000 firework-related emergency room visits across the country every year. According to Fortune Magazine, of those injuries happening between June and July, almost 70% were experienced by men.

Sparklers are a type of hand-held firework that burns slowly while emitting sparks. This is a very popular type of fireworks, (and also one of the safer). These are often given to children, but caution is still necessary. Sparklers do burn at a high temperature (as hot as 1000°C to 1600°C, or 1800°F to 3000°F), so children need close supervision when using them. Once a sparkler has burned out, immediately dispose of it in a bucket of water.

The 4th of July is a great time to celebrate the birth of our nation, but it’s important to do so safely!

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