Fun Facts and Activities for the Fourth of July
Who doesn’t look forward to a day off full of food, fireworks, flags, and festivals? But like many holidays that we celebrate, July 4th is one that we often fail to appreciate for its significance. Our independence as a nation gave us the freedoms we enjoy in this novel country, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence was the beginning of the republic known as the United States of America. This Fourth of July, learn some fun facts about the day and celebrate with some patriotic activities that will help you honor what the day is all about.
A Few Fun Facts about July 4th
There are plenty of interesting facts about Independence Day that you can wow your friends and family with this Fourth of July. Here are just a few.
- The Continental Congress actually voted for independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but the Declaration of Independence was not formally adopted until July 4. Somewhat surprisingly, only John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed the document on the 4th; the rest of the delegates signed in the days and weeks following.
- John Hancock’s signature was so unique on the document that his name became synonymous with signatures everywhere – “I need your ‘John Hancock.’”
- July 4th did not become an official holiday until 1870 – almost 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed – though Massachusetts made it a state holiday long before, in 1781.
- Two of the Declaration’s signatories who later served as President – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – both died on the July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of its adoption. President James Monroe died on the Fourth five years later.
- The U.S. Constitution was not ratified until June 21, 1788, 12 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The new form of government commenced on March 4, 1789, and the Bill of Rights was added in December of 1791.
- The first U.S. flag had 13 stars and stripes (representing the original 13 colonies) and was flown in 1776. Since then, there have been 26 additional versions. Today, the 13 stripes continue to represent the colonies, while the 50 stars represent our 50 states.
- The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA was forged in 1751 and got its name from the Biblical inscription written on it: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof" (Leviticus 25:10).
- The Liberty Bell’s wide crack was part of a repair job! Originally placed in the Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall), it cracked on the first test and was recast. After approximately 90 years of ringing to summon lawmakers to meetings, a second crack developed. In an attempt to prevent further damage, metal workers created an intentional stabilizing crack in 1846 that was also supposed to restore its tone. It failed when it was rung to commemorate George Washington’s birthday on February 23, 1846.
- The Liberty Bell has not rung since that day in1846. However, descendants of signers of Declaration of Independence tap the Liberty Bell 13 times on the Fourth of July to commemorate the original 13 colonies.
- “Give me liberty or give me death” is a quote that was made famous by Patrick Henry from a speech he made in 1775 to formally request freedom for the colony of Virginia.
- Though John Adams believed independence should be celebrated on July 2, he can be credited with the grand festivities, including fireworks (aka “illuminations”), that we use today. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, he wrote: The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
- John Adams was clearly on to something! In 2021, Americans spent nearly $2 billion (with a B!) on 416.3 million pounds of fireworks.
- What about all those picnic hotdogs, you ask? The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council estimates that a whopping 150 million hotdogs are consumed on the Fourth of July - enough to stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times!
We celebrate the Fourth in lots of different ways, but you can bring a deeper significance to your Fourth of July festivities by doing one or more of these patriotic activities each year.
- Read the Federalist Papers, a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787-88 that became a classic exposition and defense of the Constitution prior to its ratification.
- Visit Philadelphia, PA, where history was made on that Fourth of July 1776. Whether you visit in person or virtually, you can explore such places as Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Museum of the American Revolution, President’s House, and National Constitution Center. Washington D.C. is another great option, with its many monuments dedicated to the country’s history, as well as the White House and Capitol Building, where much of our government operates.
- Display an American flag, but be sure to learn how to fly and display it properly.
- Throw a backyard bash. Invite your friends to enjoy some of those 150 million hotdogs and lead them in a patriotic activity of some kind, whether it’s a craft for the kids, a neighborhood parade with decorated bikes, a reading and discussion of the Declaration of Independence, or collectively saying the Pledge of Allegiance with your displayed flag.
- Watch movies about the fight for freedom throughout our country’s history (please check ratings before watching with your children). Some suggestions include:
- The Patriot
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Saving Private Ryan
- Joyeux Noelle
- Flags of Our Father
- The Longest Day
- Courage Under Fire
- United 93
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Ready to Celebrate?
Now that you know some of the day’s history and facts, go watch or shoot off some fireworks, eat some hotdogs, proudly wave your flag, watch a patriotic movie, and enjoy your Fourth of July holiday!
by OU Online