America's observance of the Fourth of July has evolved since celebrations began 241 years ago — we've traded 18th-century favorites like turtle soup and shooting cannons for hot dogs and fireworks.
Even though the holiday has some predictable elements — there will be barbecues, parades and, yes, fireworks injuries — here are six unexpected facts about the holiday.
The Fourth of July was almost the Second of July
Americans have been celebrating independence from British rule on July 4 for more than two centuries, but a more accurate date to celebrate may actually be July 2.
While Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it made the formal call for freedom on July 2. The Declaration of Independence became official only on Aug. 2, 1776, after members of Congress signed the document, according to the National Archives.
President John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife that July 2 should be celebrated by future generations as the "great anniversary festival" for the new nation. He almost got his wish.
A famous hot dog eating competition started as a fight over who was more patriotic
Four immigrants arguing over who was the most patriotic on the Fourth of July decided to settle their dispute with a hot dog eating contest, according to Nathan's Famous. That contest became the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest — one of the best-known competitions in the realm of "competitive eating."
More than 100 years later, competitors and about 30,000 fans flock to Coney Island in Brooklyn every year to watch the spectacle and celebrate America's birthday, according to Major League Eating, which oversees professional eating contests. The contest is even broadcast live on ESPN.
Native American groups celebrate their own holidays and hold ceremonies
Some Native Americans see the Fourth of July as a chance to hold ceremonies to celebrate their own traditions. According to the National Museum of the American Indian, a disproportionate number of tribal gatherings take place on July 4.
Some tribes — including the Kiowa of Oklahoma and the Lakota of South Dakota — celebrate on the Fourth because the date coincides with their Sun Dances, the most important ceremony for Plains Indians. From July 1 to 4, the Navajo Nation holds a fair and a rodeo to celebrate Independence Day, according to the Navajo Nation Fair website.
Three presidents have died on July 4 (and another had an Independence-Day birthday)
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