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Hamptons Magazine, July 1-7 2011

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.  –William Faulkner

On July 3, 1776 after the Continental Congress had decided to proclaim the American colonies independent from England,  John Adams wrote a letter to his wife proclaiming,

“The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Discovered in China over 1,000 years ago, the first fireworks were made out of bamboo cases or rolled paper tubes filled with gun powder. They were present at almost any event; birth, death, wedding, coronation or New Year celebration because  the loud sound was thought to scare away evil spirits.

The Crusaders brought fireworks to Europe in the 13th century. Their popularity spread, and the first recorded fireworks show was in England to celebrate the wedding of Henry VII in 1487. Shakespeare even mentions them several times in his plays.

The earliest settlers brought fireworks to this country from Europe. Black powder was fired to celebrate holidays and to impress the Native Americans. By the American Revolution, fireworks had long played a part in celebrating important events, so it is not surprising that John Adams thought of fireworks when independence was declared.

Fireworks have been with Americans since the nation’s very beginnings, and now more fireworks are set off for the Fourth of July than for any other national celebration in the world.

The famous Macy’s fireworks display debuted in 1958 on the Hudson River. Then moved from  off the Upper West Side, to Governor’s Island, before settling on the East River. Since 1976 NBC has been televising the spectacle  nationwide. In 2009, the fireworks display was returned to the Hudson River for the first time since 2000 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river.

It doesn’t matter if you are 9 or 95, fireworks are the best part of the Fourth of July.

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