15 Things You Didn't Know About The Fourth Of July

The Fourth of July is a great excuse to kick back and to throw a massive summertime party. On this annual day off work, people across this great nation get together with friends and family and pig out on all-American favorites like juicy hamburgers, sizzling hot dogs, and creamy homemade pie. Before the cookout, there's the local parade where there is plenty of flag waving, marching bands, and candy thrown to children on the sidewalks. In the evening, the real show begins: big booming, colorful fireworks.

15 Things You Didn't Know About the Fourth of July Slideshow

But the fourth day in July has not always been about barbecues and parades. Over two centuries ago, bands of rebels were fighting for independence from the British, hoping that one day each colony could be its own, self-governing entity.

The initial battles of the Revolutionary War began in 1775 in the most radical colonies, but by 1776, representatives from the 13 colonies along what is now the east coast of the U.S. had decided to declare independence.

That July, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later, the Declaration of Independence was adopted. This historic document, drafted by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, changed the destiny of the colonies and formed a new nation: the United States of America.

Most of us learned all about early America in our history classes, but there's far more to this holiday than we learned in school. That history includes misinterpreted dates, food legends, old and new traditions, and highly coincidental deaths. Want to learn more about the Fourth of July before the holiday happens this year? Here are 15 fun facts about this festive American anniversary.

Randi Roberts and Carolyn Menyes contributed to this report.