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What you should know about the origins and traditions of the 4th of July festivities

What you should know about the origins and traditions of the 4th of July festivities

The 4th of July is American to its core: parades, cookouts, cold beer, and of course, fireworks.

That fireworks also make it an especially dangerous holiday, typically resulting in more than 10,000 trips to the ER. However, fireworks remain at the center of Independence Day, a holiday that has been 247 years in the making.

Here are five things to know about the 4th of July, including where the holiday came from and how fireworks became part of the tradition.

What is the origin of Independence Day?

The holiday celebrates the unanimous adoption by the Second Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, a document announcing the separation of the colonies from Great Britain.

A year later, according to the Library of Congress, a spontaneous celebration in Philadelphia marked the anniversary of American independence.

This undated engraving shows the scene on July 4, 1776 when the Continental Congress in Philadelphia approved the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Philip Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

But across the burgeoning nation, the observations didn’t become commonplace until after the War of 1812. They quickly took off: The Library of Congress notes that major 19th-century historical events such as the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore Canal and Ohio Railroad, were timed to coincide with the 4th of July festivities.

How did fireworks become a 4th of July tradition?

The fireworks display has been a big part of Independence Day from the very beginning. Founding father John Adams saw this coming.

The commemoration of the independence of the United States “must be solemnized with pomp and pageantry, with spectacles, games, sports, weapons, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this moment forward forever,” Adams wrote in a letter. to his wife, Abigail, dated July 3, 1776.

FILE – Fireworks are seen at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC during the coronavirus pandemic on July 4, 2020.

Fireworks existed centuries before the United States became a nation. The American Pyrotechnics Association says that many historians believe that fireworks were first developed in the 2nd century BCE. in ancient China by throwing bamboo stalks into a fire, causing explosions when the hollow air bags overheated.

In the 15th century, fireworks were widely used for religious festivals and public entertainment in Europe and those traditions were continued by early American settlers, the association said.

Has a president ever refused to celebrate?

Presidents from George Washington to Joe Biden have celebrated the birth of the nation on July 4, with one exception: Adams.

Putting aside his letter to his wife, Adams refused to celebrate the holiday on July 4 because he felt that July 2 was the real Independence Day. Because? It was on July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress voted in favor of the independence resolution, although the Declaration of Independence was not formally adopted until two days later.

Adams was so adamant that he turned down invitations to festivals and other events, even while serving as the nation’s second president. Ironically, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, died on the 50th anniversary of the document’s formal adoption, on July 4, 1826.

How popular are fireworks?

Consumer sales of fireworks have grown rapidly over the past two decades.

Statistics from the American Pyrotechnics Association show that in the year 2000, American consumers spent $407 million on fireworks. By 2022, that figure has risen to $2.3 billion. The biggest jump came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public fireworks displays were shut down. Consumer sales increased from $1 billion in 2019 to $1.9 billion in 2020.

“People went to the fireworks store starting on Memorial Day weekend and they just didn’t stop,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. “They were shooting off fireworks all of 2020. It shocked the industry, to be honest with you.”

People celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day holiday as fireworks explode over the San Diego County Fairgrounds, in Del Mar, California, U.S., on July 4, 2022.

People celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day holiday as fireworks explode over the San Diego County Fairgrounds, in Del Mar, California, U.S., on July 4, 2022.

Sales are expected to increase another $100 million this year, the association said. It helps that the 4th of July falls on a Tuesday, essentially creating a four-day weekend.

Are fireworks dangerous?

Despite widespread education efforts, thousands of Americans are seriously injured by fireworks each year. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2022, 10,200 people were treated in emergency rooms and 11 deaths were attributed to fireworks. About three-quarters of the injuries occurred in the period around July 4.

About a third of the injuries were to the head, face, ears, or eyes. Injuries to fingers, hands, and legs are also common.

“I’ve seen people blow off their fingers,” said Dr. Tiffany Osborn, an emergency room physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. “I have seen people who have lost their eyes. I have seen people who have significant facial injuries.”

Children under the age of 15 make up almost a third of those injured by fireworks. Flares are often blamed for burns in children under the age of 5. Osborn suggested giving young children glow sticks or colored streamers instead.

For those planning to launch fireworks, Heckman urged finding a flat, hard, level surface away from structures and other things that could catch fire. The person responsible for the fireworks should avoid alcohol. Children should never light them.

Osborn encouraged keeping a bucket or hose nearby in case of a fire or explosion. Fire one at a time and walk away quickly after lighting it, he said, and never light or handle a malfunctioning firework again. When you’re done, scoop up the remains and soak them before discarding.

Source: VOA Espanol



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