Marching bands, parades, and fireworks in the evening – there is hardly a US holiday with more spectacular celebrations than July 4. And you do not have to be a hardcore patriot to have fun on this holiday. Many people simply enjoy being outside for a picnic or barbecue.

In this article, you will learn more about the history of July 4, how it is celebrated, and which shops and public institutions are closed. In addition, we will give you some ideas of what to do (and cook) on this special occasion.

4th of July – History and Meaning

As the name Independence Day suggests, July 4 marks the splitting of the USA from the British Motherland. On this day in 1776, 13 founding colonies proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. Granted, it would take a long, bloody war until the USA became an independent country. Without the 4th of July, however, there would have been no nation. Therefore, many Americans rightfully view this date as the birthday of the US.

Independence Day could have easily fallen on July 2, the day when the colonies voted on splitting from Britain. This event, however, was held behind closed doors, and the public Declaration of Independence took place two days later.

July 4 became the official founding date, and was first celebrated one year later in Philadelphia – at a time, when the USA were still at war with Britain. This did not stop the colonists from holding mock funerals for the king of England, light bonfires, fire musket shots and publicly read the Declaration of Independence. Soldiers received double rations of rum on that day.

Interesting fact: Two of the founding fathers, namely John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died 50 years later on July 4. This remarkable coincidence served to make the date even more prominent in the minds of US citizens.

4th of July – Festivities and Ceremonies

In 1776, founding father John Adams prophesized that following generations would celebrate the 4th of July with „pomp and parades, games, canon shots and firework“. With the exception of canons, this visionary should be correct. Still today, Independence Day is by far the most spectacular holiday in the US.


The morning of July 4 traditionally starts with Independence Day Parades, and almost every major city in the USA has one. Marching bands, historical costumes, decorated wagons and a myriad of American flags are a part of these events. Oftentimes, active servicemen march alongside veterans, and many politicians use the occasion to give a patriotic speech. The oldest parade takes place in Bristol, New England, and goes as far back as 1785.


Fireworks have been an integral part of July 4 for over 200 years. They take place across the country, with New York City still holding the record for the biggest display. Here, more than 20 tons of firework light up the sky every year. In addition, these events are often accompanied by patriotic songs like „Star-Spangled Banner“, the national anthem of the USA.

Many Americans light their own firework on the 4th of July, so in the weeks before, shops start to sell rockets and firecrackers. American military bases get in on the action, too, and fire 13 salute shots – one for each founding state of the USA.

If you are traveling to Florida, Miami is a perfect spot. There, fireworks are held in multiple locations – for example, during the Fire on the Fourth Festival at the North Beach Bandshell. Disney World is another place where the sky is lit with spectacular colors on July 4


Historically, US citizens did not only celebrate July 4, but also the night before. Then, pyramids of wood were lit on fire, and cities would compete with each other over the largest bonfire. Today, these festivities are not widespread anymore, which has a lot to do with security issues. The famous bonfires of Waldon County, Florida, for instance, rarely get a green light by authorities, and in New England, most cities have also switched to fireworks.

Family Celebrations

Many US citizens use the 4th of July to spend time with their families – predominantly outside. If the weather allows it, picnics and barbecues enjoy huge popularity. For these festivities, houses and yards are decorated with American flags and the colors red, white and blue. In addition, many people like to wear patriotic T-shirts on July 4.

4th of July – Food and Drinks

Typical 4th of July food includes American classics like barbecue meat, hot dogs, burgers, grilled corn and potato salad. Many hosts serve refreshing melon juice, and a popular dessert is S´Mores: fire-grilled marshmallows and chocolate between two biscuits.

If you are looking for 4th of July recipes, you will also come across a variety of cocktails: for example, margaritas in the colors of the American flag: Grenadine, Blue Curacao and a white layer of lime juice are the ingredients for this patriotic drink.

4th of July – Films and Music

July 4 is the birthday of the USA. What better way, then, to pass the waiting time for the firework with a patriotic movie?

Most popular, of course, is “Independence Day” from the year 1996. Do you prefer serious topics over space aliens? Then, we can recommend the movie “Born on the Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise. If you want to learn more about the early days of the USA, salted with a lot of bias, of course, Mel Gibson´s “The Patriot” is perfect. Superhero fans should watch “Captain America”, and in “National Treasure”, Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence to find a legendary treasure – a true 4th of July movie for the whole family.

The 4th of July has also inspired music – most prominently, of course, Amy MacDonald´s famous song “Fourth of July”. More tunes that should grace every patriotic playlist include Neil Diamond’s “America”, “Born in the USA”, and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by Toby Keith.

4th of July – Opening Hours

4th of July is one of 11 federal holidays in the USA. This means that it is celebrated in every state. Federal institutions like post offices are closed on that day, and federal employees get the day off. Banks also close their doors on this special holiday.

Please note: If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, many offices and banks let their employees take the following Monday off.

In the USA, shops can decide for themselves whether they want to open on Independence Day. Thus, you should check the opening hours before. Large chains like Walmart, Publix, Target, Ikea, Home Depot and Bass Pro are mostly open for business but may close early that day.

Of course, you are able to use public transport on the 4th of July. Busses and trains are less frequent, but can nonetheless be a good alternative to cars. Especially if July 4 is part of a long weekend, the highways get fairly overcrowded.

4th of July – Shopping and Sales

Unlike Memorial Day and Black Friday, the 4th of July is not a classical shopping holiday. However, many shops hold 4th of July Sales in the weeks before. Home Depot, for example, offers everything customers need for their barbecue party: for example, grills and yard furniture. In addition, indoor furniture and mattresses can be had for a bargain, as can sportswear and household goods like TVs. Puma even fashioned a pair of sneakers for this holiday: the “Palace Guard 4th of July”.

For many Americans, firework at home is an integral part of the celebration. Uncle Sam, however, has grown increasingly weary of this trend, and many states now impose bans on the sale of fireworks. In Florida, it is legal to light fireworks on the 4th of July. You should, however, read the fine-print, as not every item is allowed. In addition, there are regulations by counties and cities. If you want to be on the safe – and cheaper – side, you are better-off watching a public firework.

Juli FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

When is the 4th of July?

In 2022, the 4th of July falls on a Monday. Thus, US citizens can look forward to a long weekend – just as in 2025 when Independence Day will be a Friday.

Why do we celebrate 4th July?

July 4 marks the public Declaration of Independence by the 13 founding colonies of the USA. This event in 1776 is regarded as the birth of the nation and has been celebrated since its first anniversary.

What is closed on the 4th of July?

On July 4, all federal institutions, post offices and banks are closed. Restaurants and stores are allowed to receive customers, but mostly operate with shorter hours. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, the following Monday serves as a substitute day-off.

Is the 4th of July celebrated in Canada?

Canadians do not have an Independence Day in the strict sense of the word. However, they celebrate Canada Day on July 1. This date in 1867 marks the time when Canada became an official state of the Commonwealth.