When we think of Independence Day, most of us think of fireworks, picnics, and a day off from work. What I wonder about though, is if most of us know why we shoot off fireworks on this day. The answer may surprise you, because many people did not know this. Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams had a vision of a huge celebration taking place in the city square. He wrote a letter to Abigail Adams on July3, 1776. It said that our Declaration of Independence should be commemorated 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.” The first Independence Day holiday was celebrated on July 4, 1777. On that day, at that time in history, the city was beautifully illuminated. That day felt to him like a day that should be filled with patriotism from a grateful nation to its freedom fighters. And, I believe that is what many people think today, but I also think many people forget about the sacrifice that was made so long ago.
According to some historians, the first fireworks were invented in India, but the first fireworks came to the West by way of China. Most if the early fireworks were simply repurposed military munitions, used to entertain rather than to frighten or kill the enemy, which is fitting in a way, because it was those same military munitions that brought about our freedom from England. From those ancient beginnings, came rockets, by stuffing a container with gunpowder and leaving a hole in one end for propulsion. These were called “ground-rats” or “fire rats” and they were highly unpredictable. That made them somewhat less effective, but as anyone who has ever watch a modern day display go a little haywire, they were also pretty entertaining.
So, why do most people love the fireworks today? Is it because of the great technology that allows it to be synchronized with the music, thereby adding to the festive feel? Is it the continuing patriotism in this country? Or is it simply the splendor of the display…the bright colors and the flashing light show? Well, I suppose it is really a combination if all three of those things. We are a people who love our traditions, and I believe that we are still a very patriotic nation. And, I think we love the tradition that was started by John Adams in 1777. It make us feel patriotic and allows us to honor all our military men and women who have fought through the years to keep our nation free. And really, being a free nation is still what it’s all about. That is the thing we must not forget. Happy Independence Day America!!!