Why Do We Watch Fireworks On The 4th Of July?

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Why Do We Celebrate The 4th Of July With Fireworks?

People across the U.S. celebrate the 4th of July by watching fireworks light up the night sky. But why did the tradition start?

People also light fireworks on New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Although no holiday is more closely associated with fireworks than the 4th of July.

A person watches fireworks on the 4th of July
Photo by Spenser Sembrat on Unsplash


So, what’s the history behind this beloved Independence Day tradition? As it turns out, Americans have celebrated the 4th of July with fireworks since the very beginning.

The First Organized Independence Day Celebration Was In 1977

The U.S. Declaration of Independence was officially adopted on July 4, 1776. History (formerly The History Channel) details how the first organized Independence Day celebration occurred one year later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported that the day’s celebrations ended with “a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.

As the years passed, other cities started celebrating the 4th of July. Their celebrations included picnics, parades, speeches, and, of course, fireworks.

Enthusiasm surrounding Independence Day picked up after the War of 1812. By then, fireworks were easier to obtain, so they were more widely used in the 4th of July celebrations. They became even more popular as cannons and gunfire were phased out of the festivities because of safety concerns.

Watching Fireworks On The 4th Of July Is A Centuries-Old Tradition

Congress officially established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870. Fireworks have remained an integral part of 4th of July celebrations ever since.

4th of July fireworks display
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When discussing the connection between fireworks and the patriotic holiday, Historian James Heintze, author of The Fourth of July Encyclopedia, notes one reporter’s words from 1898:

“The American Fourth of July is the greatest event the maker of firecrackers knows.”

These days, fireworks shows are often set to patriotic songs that celebrate the U.S. and its military. Spectators gather at local parks, ballfields, and fairgrounds to watch the multi-colored lights dance across the night sky. Others opt to have their own fireworks shows at home to entertain their family and friends.

No matter how you choose to view fireworks this Independence Day, you now know the origins of the centuries-old tradition!