It’s a birthday party for everyone, young and old. It takes place at fairgrounds and parks, on beaches and streets, and in people’s backyards. It is the Fourth of July — Independence Day — the birthday of the United States of America.
July 4, 1776, was the culmination of a hard-fought battle for Americans’ right to self-governance and democratic rule. The U.S. supports people around the world today fighting for these same freedoms.
On July 3, 1776, expecting that the Continental Congress would adopt the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife that the day “will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with [shows], games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
A father and daughter enjoy the Fourth of July in Waveland, Mississippi.
New York City’s Fourth of July fireworks seen from a rooftop in Long Island City.
Meanwhile, east of the Hudson River in New York City, people sprawl on the grass as fireworks cast an eerie glow over the celebrations below.
Flags fly high over celebrations at picnics and cookouts, reminding everyone of America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In the song, the flag represents American hope and perseverance against all odds. This woman plants flags in the ground at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, in preparation for crowds that will come to watch fireworks in front of the nearby Statue of Liberty.
Fourth of July parties in high-rise buildings give guests a bird’s-eye view. Here spectators watch fireworks from a Las Vegas hotel. Americans have celebrated with fireworks since 1777, when Philadelphia marked the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with a display over Independence Hall.
Americans love a parade, and there are probably more of them on Independence Day than any other day of the year. Anyone may join in, from marching bands to horseback riders — and little ones on tricycles in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida.
Estefany Galindo, originally from Honduras, hugs her co-workers and friends Maria Reiss, right, and Cynthia Lansden, left, after the Fiesta of Independence Naturalization Ceremony at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hosted more than 50 naturalization ceremonies across the United States July 1–4 in 2018 for more than 4,000 new U.S. citizens.
Concerts are plentiful on Independence Day. From jazz to country and classical to rock ‘n’ roll, music reflects the diversity of America’s cultural traditions. Here a crowd marks the Fourth by watching rhythm-and-blues singer Peabo Bryson perform at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.
Baseball and Independence Day go together like hot dogs and buns. The game spread in popularity from New York to the rest of the country after the Civil War, helping to reunite the nation. This Kansas City Royals player watches fireworks after a game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
A version of this article was published on June 30, 2017.