America’s observance of the Fourth of July has slightly evolved since celebrations began 242 years ago as we’ve traded 18th-century favorites like eating turtle soup and shooting cannons for hot dogs and fireworks. Even though the holiday has some predictable elements — barbecues, parades and, yes, fireworks injuries — here are seven fun facts about Independence Day worth brushing up on.
1. Why red, white and blue?
The common story is that these colors represent purity and innocence (white), hardiness and valor (red), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue). Apparently the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, as the colors of the flag were chosen because it was designed after the British Union Jack.
2. Shouldn’t it be the second of July?
The second of July may truly be the appropriate date to mark Independence Day. It was on July 2, 1776, that Congress actually ruled in favor of independence from Great Britain. Only two founding fathers signed on July 4.
3. Fourth of July Deaths (and One Birthday)
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on July 4. Adams and Jefferson died the same day and year, in 1826 — exactly 50 years after Congress declared independence. Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872, the only president to have been born on Independence Day.
4. Celebrate with rum.
While most people drink beer on the Fourth of July, in 1778 the Revolutionary War fighters celebrated with another classic libation — rum. On the second Independence Day, George Washington ordered a double ration of rum for American soldiers to celebrate with. This year, go pour yourself a strong rum cocktail — it’s what George would have wanted.
5. Don’t ring that bell.
Today, the Liberty Bell is tapped 13 times every July 4 by descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It hasn’t been rung in 173 years because of fears that it would worsen the crack. And, just so you know, the Liberty Bell last rang on February 23, 1846, to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.
6. Why hot dogs?
Legend says that in 1916, four immigrants on Coney Island were arguing over who was the most patriotic on the Fourth of July. To solve the debate, Nathan Handwerker, founder of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Stand, posed a challenge — whoever could eat the most frankfurters had the greatest admiration for America. Irish immigrant James Mullen won, becoming the first victor in what would become a long-standing American tradition. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will consume over 150 million hot dogs during Fourth of July festivities.
7. Other Fourth of July Holidays.
In the Philippines, this day is Republic Day — celebrating their independence from the U.S. The Philippines were a U.S. territory until 1946. And over in Rwanda, July 4 is Liberation Day, when the country ended the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 after 100 days of conflict.