Independence Day, our most important patriotic holiday, celebrates the birth of the nation. In 1776, the 13 American colonies were in the midst of their Revolutionary war against Great Britain. On the Fourth of July of that year, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence-a document which declared the colonies free and independent states. It is the signing and the significance of this document that Americans remember on July 4th. On this date in 1976, the Americans celebrated, with lavish festivities, the bicentennial(200th anniversary)of this historic document.
  The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, who later became the young nation's third president. Its most famous paragraph sums up the ideals of Americans from colonial days to the present:

   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 Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.
   Since Independence Day is a summer holiday and a day off from work for almost everyone, many families enjoy picnics or beach outings on that day. the occasion is also commemorated by colorful and noisy fireworks displays, parades, and, in some communities, patriotic speeches. The flag is flown, and red, white and blue ribbons are used for decoration at public ceremonies. Throughout the nation, church bells ring in memory of the Philadelphia Liberty Bell that first announced American independence.