Much like the Constitution is not just a piece of paper or the flag a piece of a cloth--the Fourth of July is not just another day of the year.
What makes the Fourth of July so unique is what it symbolizes to Americans. At our Founding, America was but just thirteen colonies under the rule of an imperial power that did not respect the wishes of her people.
In what is now regarded as one of the most influential moments in history, a group of subjects who aspired to be free rose up and declared their independence. Every year, on the Fourth of July we celebrate that boldness which was required to sign the Declaration of Independence and the courage needed to fight the war that followed.
The original fireworks display took an Act of Congress--literally--the display being authorized by Congress and taking place on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, one year after the signing of the Declaration. Early celebrations also included small gatherings and parades honoring local veterans of the Revolution. The traditions continue to this day.
It was not until 1870, however, that the federal government declared Independence Day as a federal holiday. Six years later, America celebrated the centennial in grand fashion with a three-day celebration of our Independence.
In 2012, many Americans will undoubtedly spend much of their day with their families and friends. Many will enjoy fireworks displays and attend parties, all while feeling pride for our country. These are customs and traditions of the Fourth of July that have evolved over the past 200 years.
The way Americans choose to celebrate the Fourth of July is up to them, but the inspiration to celebrate is universal. It is just as important to recognize the veterans in your community and take the occasion to thank them for serving. It is because of them that we are still celebrating our freedom 236 years later and why America is so exceptional. -- Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.