Fourth of July celebrations combine observance of the nation's birthday, spirited displays of patriotism and appreciation for the country's heritage, salutes to America's Founders and those who have kept it strong and pledges to keep freedom ringing.
Most Americans get in the spirit of this holiday in some manner and the agenda may include special trips, participation in some of the organized activities, picnics and outings, watching a fireworks display or perhaps catching a patriotic concert and celebration show on television.
The central reason for the celebration is the anniversary of the adoption date of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The document was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Continental Congress.
It is far more than the adoption date itself that is embodied in the Independence Day celebration. Today's observances also encompass the often-desperate struggle in the American Revolution against England — a David vs. Goliath match-up with the odds heavily against success of the uprising.
Gen. George Washington and his troops had some very dark hours, and the fate of the new country at times was bleak indeed. Their eventual triumph in attaining the seemingly impossible is part of the reason for celebrating the holiday.
There were only 13 American colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence and through the manifesto representatives of those groups asserted their independence from Britain and explained the reasons for their break.
A succession of complaints against England was listed in the Declaration. Jefferson used only 1,300 words to compose the document, which carried a powerful message on behalf of residents of a budding new nation, and continues to inspire people everywhere.
Jefferson's words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Jefferson, of course, made many other contributions in the fight for liberty during his years of service to America. One of those intriguing coincidences of history is that Jefferson died on the Fourth of July in 1826, 50 years after writing that great document.
Americans on this special day can take pride not only in the early history of their country and the work of the founding citizens but also the service of so many through the 238 years of the nation's history to preserve and perpetuate the freedoms proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
Independence Day is to be celebrated with joy, excitement and enthusiasm, but also with some sober reflection on the cost paid by many.