Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This is Doug Johnson. Today is the Fourth of July, a holiday in the United States. On our program:
We answer a question about how Americans celebrate this holiday ...
And we tell about a related celebration in Europe ...
But first, we explain why this is an important day for Americans.
American Independence Day
The Fourth of July is an important holiday in the United States. It is the day Americans celebrate the anniversary of their declaration of independence from Britain. Nicole Nichols has the story.
In the summer of seventeen-seventy-six, the American colonists were deeply divided. Almost one in three was loyal to Britain. They could not imagine a war for independence. Yet most were increasingly angry about what they considered unfair treatment by the British government. Britain taxed them without giving them representation. It also canceled any of their laws that it did not like.
By June, the colonies were in open revolt. Some fighting had already taken place between colonial forces and British troops. The idea of independence was spreading.
Delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia for a meeting of the Continental Congress. These delegates were divided, too. Some still hoped the colonies could reach an agreement with Britain. Others believed the colonies could gain their rights only by becoming independent.
The Continental Congress agreed that a declaration of independence should be prepared. Thomas Jefferson led a committee chosen to write it. As they worked, the Congress continued to debate the question of independence.
On July second, seventeen-seventy-six, the Congress took an official vote on the question. All the colonies except New York voted yes. The New York delegates said they were waiting for orders from home before voting. But they promised that their colony would also vote for independence.
John Adams wrote to his wife later that day. He said that July second would become the official birthday of the new country. But he was wrong. It was July fourth that became American’s official Independence Day. That was the day the Continental Congress voted to approve the document.
The Declaration of Independence blamed the British government for all the wrongs done to the colonies. It declared that governments have the right to exist only to protect the rights of their people. And it said the people have the right to change their government if it denies them their rights.
July Fourth in Denmark
Now you know why July fourth is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States. But it might surprise you to learn that America’s Independence Day is also celebrated in Denmark. Shep O’Neal explains.
From the middle eighteen-eighties until nineteen-hundred, one out of every ten people in Denmark moved to the United States. They were poor farmers seeking a new economy and a better life. Most settled in America’s Middle-West.
In nineteen-twelve, these immigrants created an organization. The Danish-American Society bought land back home in Denmark, near Aalborg. That city is about two-hundred-fifty kilometers northwest of Copenhagen. The society gave the land to Denmark on the condition that America’s Independence Day would be celebrated there every year.
Denmark’s ruler agreed. King Christian established a national park on the land. He said the park would represent the friendship between the two nations.
That is why America’s Independence Day has been celebrated ever since at Ribald National Park and in the city of Aalborg. The celebrations were cancelled, however, during the years Nazi Germany occupied Denmark during World War Two.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of visitors have joined with Danes in the celebration at Ribald Park. American and Danish flags fly side by side. People eat American and Danish food. They listen to speeches. Speakers have included presidents and other famous Americans.
Celebrations in nearby Aalborg extend over several days. Events this year began on Wednesday and will continue until Sunday. The festivities include fireworks, parties, picnics and concerts. The United States Air Forces in Europe Band is taking part this year. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is to speak, along with officials from the American Embassy in Copenhagen and the Danish ambassador to the United States.
Celebrating July Fourth in the United States
Our VOA listener question this week comes from China. Zhang Cai asks what Americans do on Independence Day.
The traditional thing is to gather family and friends outside in the warm summer air, to play sports and eat hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken -- all cooked on charcoal fires.
Towns and cities hold parades. People young and old take part. One modern patriotic song has found its way into many July Fourth celebrations. It is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The U.S.A.”
As the sun goes down, the fireworks begin. In many cities and towns, people gather in open areas, such as a sports field or park. They watch bursts of bright colored stars and other shapes across the night sky. Many people consider fireworks to be the best part of any Fourth of July celebration. They say the exploding shells recall the Revolutionary War for independence that gave birth to the United States.
We leave you now with a patriotic marching song heard at many Fourth of July fireworks shows. John Philip Sousa wrote it many years ago. It is “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our special Fourth of July program.
Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Rick Barnes. And our producer was Paul Thompson.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.