Summer is in full swing, and it’s time to celebrate America. The Fourth of July marks the anniversary of the passing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Fireworks and the holiday go hand in hand. Since 1976, Macy’s has put on a show for the nation in New York City. Here’s some history and how to catch it for yourself.

Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks?

Natural firecrackers paved the way for fireworks in Liuyang, China, in the second century BC, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA). Bamboo stalks that exploded with loud gusto because of hollow air pockets were used to keep away evil spirits.

According to the APA, it was believed that between AD 600 and 900, a Chinese alchemist took things a step further. The alchemist combined potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal to make the first gunpowder, placed the mixture in bamboo, and created the first fireworks.

This invention spread to Europe in the 13th century. By the 15th century, the nighttime spectacular was popular entertainment. It was brought to the United States by the early settlers. From the very beginning, the loud bangs were part of Fourth of July celebrations.

How did Macy’s get into the fireworks business?

According to the website Untapped New York, Macy’s first used fireworks to celebrate its 100th birthday on July 1, 1958. It is estimated that one million people showed up to watch the display over the Hudson River. In 1976, Macy’s teamed up with the Walt Disney Company to mark America’s bicentennial. The event was so popular that an annual tradition was born and started being televised in 1991.

It’s hard to believe now, but when the annual event began, one person would set off all the fireworks with a metal rod. These days, computers cue the firework shells—a record-breaking 60,000, by this year’s count—aided by more than 50 miles of cabling.

Where to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks in person

This is the first time since 2013 that the fireworks will be displayed over the Hudson River. For the past 11 years, the show took place over the East River at the request of former mayor Bill de Blasio. In 2024, they will be launched from barges on the Hudson between West 14th and West 34th streets.

The best place to watch in person is in Manhattan near the West Side Highway on the strip between West 14th and West 34th streets. You can also catch the display on the New Jersey side of the Hudson from Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City.

Where to watch if you are not in New York or New Jersey

For those of us who cannot be there in person, NBC has us covered, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Traditional cable subscribers and those with an over-the-air antenna can watch the show live on the NBC broadcast network.

Cord-cutters can stream the event on Peacock.

If Peacock is not in your streaming arsenal, you can also access NBC through a live-TV streaming service such as Hulu with Live TV, which offers a three-day free trial for new subscribers. NBC is also available on Sling, YouTube TV, and other services.

This year’s event will be hosted by Grammy-nominated country singer Mickey Guyton and Access Hollywood’s Zuri Hall. In addition to the fireworks, the two-hour special will feature performances by Lainey Wilson, Luis Fonsi, Tanner Adell, and The War and Treaty.

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