“Celebrate God all day, every day.” Philippians 4:4 (The Message)
July 4th is one of my very favorite holidays. I like everything about the day…decorating with red/white/blue, having a picnic with family and friends, fireworks, flags fluttering in the summer breeze, parades, and celebrating the birthday of this wonderful country. I am especially fond of fireworks, but it wasn’t always that way. As a child, I covered my ears and cowered in fear and terror when fireworks exploded. But as I aged, the fears subsided, and I grew to love the sky’s display of color and sound. The parks and recreation department in my hometown sponsors a fireworks program every year on the 4th, and it’s an “OK” event. However, nothing can compare to the fireworks that occur each year in New York City Harbor. They can usually be viewed on TV and are the most amazing fireworks I have ever witnessed. I sometimes even forget I am sitting at home watching on TV—it’s almost as if I’m standing in the crowds in New York City. In today’s world of high definition (HD) television, I am looking forward to viewing some great fireworks programs this year, too.
Fireworks are thought to have originated in China sometime in the 7th century and were used to accompany festivities. In fact, fireworks were (and still are) always associated with positive events—happy, joyous, victorious celebrations. One is sure to experience a lively atmosphere where fireworks abound. When Italian explorer Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Orient in 1292, he brought firecrackers and introduced them to Europe. The Italians took things a step further and began to develop new fireworks that became true art forms. Fireworks soon spread throughout Europe and eventually to other continents. Over the years, firework displays have grown more and more elaborate, employing the work of metalworkers, carpenters, and high explosive experts. Today, fireworks are worldwide and popular in every country.
On July 3, 1776 John Adams, a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, wrote the following words in a letter to his wife, Abigail:
“The second day of July will be most memorable 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 solemnized as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” (wiki.answers.com)
The very next day, July 4, 1776, Adams and other Continental Congress delegates voted to approve the final text of what would become America’s Declaration of Independence. Ironically, only two men signed the Declaration on July 4th—John Hancock, President of the Congress, and Charles Thomson, Secretary. The document was then taken to a Philadelphia printer where 200 copies were printed and later distributed to members of the Congress and other interested parties. Sadly, the original document was lost in all the “freedom fervor”, and a new document had to be penned. On August 2, 1776, delegates returned to the Congress to sign the newly prepared Declaration of Independence, and for some unknown reason, Secretary Charles Thomson was not invited to sign.
Adams’s prediction about July 2nd was off by two days, but his foresight about celebrating with fireworks, parades, etc. was right on target. From the outset folks celebrated independence on July 4th, probably because that is the date shown on the Declaration of Independence. So since colonial times, fireworks have played a major role in July 4th celebrations, even though the date was not declared a legal holiday until 1870.
May you have a great July. I hope you witness some fireworks on July 4th…..if not,then find a reason to celebrate something this month and purchase your own fireworks for the occasion. We all need to celebrate. Look for one “event” each day that will give you cause to celebrate God’s goodness. Yesterday (Sunday), I celebrated the freedom to worship in the church of my choice. Today, I celebrated the price of gasoline dropping 4 more cents!!!
Below is a quiz about the Declaration of Independence. Answers can be found at the end of this article (no peeking).
1. How many men signed the Declaration?
2. Whose signature was first?
3. Where can you go to see the Declaration of Independence?
4. Who was the oldest signer of the Declaration?
5. Name the original 13 colonies (or at least 7 of them??) that declared their independence from England.
One interesting sidenote: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the only signers of the document to later serve as Presidents of the United States. Both men died on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
2. John Hancock signed first; his signature was also the largest.
3. The National Archives in Washington, DC
4. Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he signed.
5. Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Reprinted by permission. (c) 2012 Leslie O. Kelley