"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."
-- John Adams
"Traditions are important." -- Dennis J. Lane
As noted in this Wikipedia page, Independence Day has always been celebrated on the 4th of July in accordance with the date on the Declaration of Independence, and not the 2nd, as predicted by John Adams. Nevertheless, that Adams quote is a good one. It captures the energy associated with Independence. The words excitement, happiness, and inspiration really don't fit. Just "energy", captured in a day in time, that will explode into perpetuity.
Unlike most other Americans, I don't have a 4th of July tradition. This year I will be walking in three parades (River Hill, Longfellow, and Catonsville) with friends. That seems like a good tradition to start. Previous years I had spent with friends and family at various BBQ's across the mid-Atlantic region, from Pennsylvania, to New Jersey, to D.C. The universality of celebrations across the Country is comforting. Sure, we all have different firework laws (my dog thanks Maryland for its strict control locally), but the grill-fare, mayonnaise salads, and incorporation of (bon)fire(works) stays the same.
But as noted in Adams's quote, there is a personal element to the 4th. Whether you find yourself aligned with religious observation or not, he predicts a "day of deliverance" celebrated "by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." The day is made up not only of external celebration, but also internal contemplation. (One must presume that Mr. Adams wanted a schedule in place, separating the "games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations" from "solemn acts of devotion".)
Happy Birthday, USA!
Have a great Independence Day in observance of the Country you love!