(CNSNews.com) - America has been celebrating its independence from Great Britain since 1776 with the formal adoption of the "Declaration of Independence" in Philadelphia, but it was our second president, John Adams, who believed Americans should celebrate this day with fireworks, picnics, fun and the like.

Adams began representing Massachusetts at the Second Continental Congress in 1775. While a member of that Congress, he helped prepare the framework for the Declaration, the formal document declaring America's independence from Britain.

Though toiling as much as seven hours a day and six days a week in the Congress, Adams managed to find time to write to his wife, Abigail about the progress of America's quest for independence.

A note written to his beloved wife on July 3, 1776, expressed his exuberance: Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men . . ."

Later that day, he wrote: "...It ought to be solemnized with pomp, and parade, with shows, games, sports, ells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

"You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states," Adams wrote.

Although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August, the Fourth of July holiday has been accepted as the official anniversary of the United States. It was first observed in Philadelphia with the public reading of the Declaration. As it was being read, city bells rang, and bands played.

However, the Fourth of July was not declared a legal holiday until 1941. Since that first day, other Independence Day traditions began in the United States.

The original "Uncle Sam" was a businessman from Troy, N.Y., named Samuel Wilson. He supplied barrels of beer to the Army during the war of 1812 that were stamped "U.S." to indicate government property. This led to the use of the nickname "Uncle Sam" for the United States. In 1961, Congress passed a resolution recognizing Wilson as the namesake of the national symbol.

Many historians say the red, white and blue colors of the American flag don't have any official symbolism. One historical account said Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, suggested that "white signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness valour, and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance justice."