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Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the 4th of July


Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial during the Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, DC, July 4, 2019. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the 4th of July
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The United States observes its Independence Day on July 4th.

It normally includes massive public celebrations of music, fireworks and food in cities and towns across the country. This year, however, much of the country is avoiding large gatherings, or barring them.

So, we are turning to the ghost of Independence Day past to note some lesser-known history of the holiday.

July what?

Declaration of Independence painting by John Trumbull in 1818. The famous work hangs in the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Declaration of Independence painting by John Trumbull in 1818. The famous work hangs in the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

This day will be remembered in American history, wrote John Adams in 1776. People will honor it with fireworks and celebrations.

He was talking about the second of July.

That is the day the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from the British. The colonies officially became self-ruling states.

But the date written on the Declaration of Independence is July 4. So, since 1776, Americans have honored July 4 as the country’s Independence Day.

And July 2? Not so much.

Patriotic to the end

Adams went on to become the first vice-president of the United States of America and its second president. He observed many July 4th Independence Days right up until he died --- on July 4th, 1826. That same day, a few hours earlier, Adams’ lifelong friend, opponent, former vice president, and third president, Thomas Jefferson, also died.

It was the 50th anniversary of Independence Day.

Five years later, James Monroe, the country’s fifth president, also died on July 4.

And one president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on July 4, in 1872.

Nathan who?

Most Americans celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, parades and, yes, fireworks. But a few celebrate by eating all the hot dogs they can.

Defending men's champion Joey Chestnut, left, and defending women's champion Miki Sudo pose together during Nathan's Famous international Fourth of July hot dog eating in New York City, in 2019.
Defending men's champion Joey Chestnut, left, and defending women's champion Miki Sudo pose together during Nathan's Famous international Fourth of July hot dog eating in New York City, in 2019.

Every July 4th since the early 1970s, a restaurant called Nathan’s Famous has held a competition to see who can eat the most hot dogs in ten minutes. The event involves 30 to 40 competitors divided by sex. Women face women. Men face men.

The competition is held at Nathan’s Famous in the Coney Island area of New York City. The 1916 restaurant grew over the years into a large food business, with many stores.

The undeniable star eater at Nathan’s is Joey Chestnut of California. The 36-year-old has won the men’s championship 12 times, including last year. He also holds the Nathan’s record for most hot dogs eaten in competition --- 74.

New York native Miki Sudo is Nathan’s Famous current women’s champion. She has won the event six times, more than any other woman.

But her opponent, South Korean-born Sonya Thomas has eaten more hot dogs at the event. Thomas set the record in 2011 downing 40 hot dogs in ten minutes. But, that record did not last long. Thomas returned to Nathan's the following year and ate 45.

Nathan’s is holding the hot dog eating competition again this Independence Day. The event is not open to the public because of COVID-19. But, it will be covered live on television and the web.

Where do those fireworks come from?

So, let’s go back to those fireworks, probably the most common image linked to Independence Day. Americans really, really love fireworks. The American Pyrotechnic Association – “pyrotechnic” is another word for “fireworks” – reported that Americans spent $1 billion on ordinary fireworks last year. And, the industry group said it also earned $375 million from sales of professional fireworks.

People watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Independence Day celebrations in New York July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
People watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Independence Day celebrations in New York July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

But although fireworks are in popular use in America, they are rarely made in America. The huge majority is imported from China.

And, most American flags are made there too!

Happy Independence Day!

I'm Caty Weaver.

Kelly Jean Kelly and Caty Weaver wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

barbecue -n. to cook food, especially meat, outside over hot coals or an open fire​

hot dog -n. a small cooked sausage that is mild in flavor and is usually served in a long roll (called a hot dog bun)​

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