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.
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."
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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.
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.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on July 4. Adams and Jefferson died the same day and year, in 1826 — exactly 50 years after Congress declared independence. Adams, the second president, is rumored to have whispered "Thomas Jefferson survives" just before dying, according to the White House. Little did he know that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier, 500 miles away in Virginia.
Calvin Coolidge is the only president to share a birthday with his country. Every year on the Fourth of July, Coolidge's hometown in Vermont holds a birthday celebration for the 30th president, which includes a march to his grave.
Instead of being rung, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped 13 times every July 4 by descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, according to Adam Duncan, a spokesman for the National Park Service.
The Liberty Bell last rang on Feb. 23, 1846, to celebrate George Washington's birthday, Duncan said. It hasn't been rung for the 171 years since then because of fears that it would worsen the crack.
Across the country, more than 65 naturalization ceremonies will be extra patriotic as 15,000 people become U.S. citizens over the holiday weekend, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That's more than double the 7,000 citizens naturalized over the holiday last year, according to USCIS.
Ceremonies will be held at historically-significant places like George Washington's Mount Vernon home and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. On Independence Day, naturalization ceremonies will be "enhanced" with speakers and musical performers, USCIS spokeswoman Marilu Cabrera said.
CORRECTION (July 4, 2017 7:50 a.m. ET) An earlier version of this article misstated the year when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. It was 1826, not 1829.