In the United States, Independence Day (commonly known as the Fourth of July) is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, baseball games, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States, but is often also viewed as simply a summer festival, apart from its patriotic overtones.
Independence Day, the only holiday that celebrates the United States, is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other summer-themed events, Fourth of July celebrations often take place outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (like the postal service and federal courts) are closed on that day. Many politicians make it a point on this day to appear at a public event to praise the nation's heritage, laws, history, society, and people.
Families often celebrate the Fourth of July with a picnic or barbecue, and take advantage of the day off and in some years, long weekend to gather with relatives. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades often are in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem ("The Star-Spangled Banner"), "God Bless America", "America the Beautiful", "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", "This Land Is Your Land", "Stars and Stripes Forever", and, regionally, "Yankee Doodle" in northeastern states and "Dixie" in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. While the "1812 Overture" refers to Russia's defeat of Napoleon, it has been traditionally used by the Boston Pops and broadcast nationwide on PBS, so that many Americans also associate this musical work with the Fourth.
Firework shows are held in many states, and many fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show. Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed. Illicit traffic transfers many fireworks from less restrictive states.
Most fireworks shows in the United States end in an intense finale, with a volley of fireworks launched in quick succession, sometimes simultaneously. Major displays are held in New York on the East River, in Chicago on Lake Michigan, Boston on the Charles River, and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. During the annual Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario host one of the world's largest fireworks displays, over the Detroit River, to celebrate both American Independence Day and Canada Day.
When the holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, although nearly all corporate businesses and government functions remain open, many people take off an extra day to make for a four-day summer weekend. This is less common when the holiday falls on a Wednesday (as occurred in 2007), although business activity for the week as a whole tends to slow down as some people extend it into a week-long vacation. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, many (but not all) people have off on Monday, in lieu of the holiday. Some businesses close on Friday when the holiday falls on Saturday, although that is not as common (some close on Monday, but that is even less common), during these years many people only receive a two day weekend.