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American Independence Day – 4th July, 2011

The 4th of July is a time for festivities and remembrance across America as it commemorates the adoption of the historic Declaration of Independence and the achievement of freedom from British rule. Americans mark this day with pride and joy as they look back on a turbulent past and the subsequent victory over it.  The American Independence Day is the celebration of strength, integrity and power that continues to dominate all pioneering fronts of economic and civic prosperity.

The Thirteen Colonies Rebel

On July 2, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies legally separated from Great Britain. The Second Continental Congress approved the resolution on independence that had been first proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its main author.

The First Celebrations

Here’s a look at how the Fourth of July was celebrated in the early years.

  • In 1777, the state of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary by hosting a dinner for the Continental Congress, 13-gun salutes, patriotic speeches, prayers, music and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting
  • On the second anniversary in 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 by granting his soldiers a double ration of rum.
  • In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court gained the distinction of becoming the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.
  • In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held an impressive program by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled "The Psalm of Joy".
  • In 1791 the first recorded use of the name "Independence Day" occurred.
  • In 1938, the U.S. Congress declared that Independence Day would be a paid federal holiday.

 The essence of the celebrations has remained unchanged over the years. Today, families celebrate by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue. Decorations such as streamers, balloons, and clothing are all colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades and fireworks displays are common at places such as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares. 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 are sung at sports events, concerts and large gatherings.

 Kids Ahoy!

Celebrating the 4th of July at class can help children understand the nature and importance of this splendid and eminent occasion, thus increasing their insight into national events and history. A few tips to do this are:

1)      Organize a mini Independence Day Parade in your community or school. Let the children dress up in the colours of the flag and have fun while celebrating this national milestone.

2)      Set up a class discussion in which students can talk about their favourite aspect of the Declaration of Independence.

3)      Organize an art day where kids can make flags and write Independence Day messages for each other.

4)      Take the kids out on a field trip to any site of national importance.

5)       Plan a quiz session in class around the rebellion and American history.

6)      Listen to Native American Music like Putumayo's Native American Odyssey

 7)  Read books on American history and culture like When God made the Dakota's , Prairie Christmas Book ,

      Emma's Poem , Thanksgiving or Country Road ABC in America

 8)  Learn about Hawaii, one of America's newest states in audio The Story of Hula or The Story of Surfing

 Significance Today

 “Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” - Louis D. Brandeis

 In the light of recent political events, July 4 has become a sobering time for most Americans. It reminds the people of hard won liberties and the ongoing struggle to be free men. It is also a reminder that victory lies beyond fear. As Franklin D. Roosevelt had once said, “Freedom cannot be bestowed; it has to be achieved!”

Article written on behalf of Global Kids Oz by Annie Besant

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