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July 4th: From Happiness to Hot Dogs

The 4th of July is celebrated with fireworks, hot dogs and parades. But what are we celebrating anyway? 

The holiday, also known as Independence Day, was when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, right? Actually, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by delegates of the thirteen colonies on July 4th, but wasn’t signed until about a month later.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted while the Continental Army was at war with Great Britain. The Revolutionary War had started in 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.   

The document was a statement that the colonies regarded themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. They had had enough of the British and King George! However, it would still take until 1781 to make that official when the Continental Army defeated the British and forced a surrender at Yorktown, Virginia.

In 1941, the 4th of July became a federal holiday, though it was celebrated in some form since 1777.   

Meaning and Mustard

The most famous passage from the Declaration of Independence contains these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Did Thomas Jefferson, who is credited as the main author of the Declaration of Independence, mean an elusive quest for happiness?  It’s open to interpretation. Scholars believe that Jefferson meant the practicing of happiness, not just chasing it. 

There will be lots of that on display at celebrations and cookouts this weekend. And the centerpiece of any 4th Celebration is the hot dog. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day. That’s enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times.

Joey Chestnut accounts for more than his share. He’s the 13-time holder of the Mustard Belt from the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The event is held every July 4th at Coney Island. Chestnut ate a record 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at the 2020 contest.

This weekend, whether you’re eating a hot dog or two or more, celebrating your independence or practicing happiness, do it safely.