Celebrating Independence Day

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Voting for Independence

A depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The American Revolution took place between 1775 and 1783. While small battles were taking place in 1775, the idea of independence wasn’t popular – very few colonists wanted independence and those that did were considered radicals. It took time for the colonists to warm up to the idea. Enter Thomas Paine, a revolutionary who decided to write a pamphlet in favor of independence. Entitled “Common Sense” and published anonymously on January 10, 1776, the pamphlet was written in plain language that colonists could understand. In the popular pamphlet, Paine made a strong case for independence. His arguments, along with a growing resentment toward Great Britain, finally made the idea of independence catch on.

In June 1776, representatives from all 13 colonies gathered together to debate the possibility of establishing an independent nation. After much debate, the Continental Congress finally voted in favor of independence on July 2nd. Thomas Jefferson was selected to draft the official declaration, and two days later, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously approved.

The first “Independence Day” celebrations took place that same summer of 1776. Mock funerals were held for King George III to symbolize the soon-to-be end of his control over the colonies. The celebrations also included parades, concerts, bonfires, and the firing of muskets and cannons. Aside from mock funerals and musket fire, today’s celebrations are quite similar to those of the early colonists who had finally decided to fight for freedom. Across the country, July Fourth will bring parades, concerts, and fireworks. So, what are you planning?

If you want to decorate your apartment for a Fourth of July bash, consider do-it-yourself decorations. Decorating for the Fourth is fairly easy – just look for plenty of red, white, and blue. Instead of going to the party store and spending money on expensive decorations, head to the craft store and get some Fourth-of-July themed scrapbooking paper. Use this to make placemats (cover a sheet or a collage of several sheets in clear contact paper on both sides) or decorative pinwheels: Get some thin dowels from the woodworking section of the craft store. Fold a square sheet of scrapbook paper diagonally to make a triangle, open and fold in the opposite direction, then cut 3/4 of the way up each crease made by folding. Fold each corner toward the center and glue. Use hot glue to attach the pinwheel to a dowel.

A star-shaped hole punch is also a great item to pick up at the craft store, and you can use it over and over again. Punch some stars out of your scrapbook paper and use it to decorate paper lanterns, scatter them over the dining room table like confetti, use them to cover a foam wreath form, or string them together to make streamers. Don’t toss the paper you punched the stars from – glue the two sides together and stand it on end. Place it over a flameless candle (not a real candle!) as a centerpiece – the light will shine through the star cut-outs.

If you live in an apartment complex with a bicycle trail, ask management about organizing a Fourth-of-July bicycle parade for the kids – every child who wishes to enter the parade must decorate his/her bike in a patriotic fashion. You may want to hand out prizes to the most creative, best decorated, and most patriotic. And while you have residents out cheering on their kids in the parade, perhaps a community potluck barbecue could be organized, as well.

As always, follow these safety precautions during your July Fourth celebrations. While you are out watching the fireworks, you may want to leave your pets at home. Fireworks pose a hazard to curious pets. Also, the noise can be an issue. More pets are lost during Fourth of July than any other time of the year. The fireworks can scare a pet into running off, hiding, and getting lost. It’s best to keep your pet indoors away from the noise and in an escape-proof location.