On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England and a holiday was born. John Adams wrote to wife Abigail, “It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

As we commemorate our nation's founding, spending time with family and friends takes on special significance. Whichever way you choose to show your patriotism, make sure your day starts off with a bang.

1. Host a cookout

Hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob, baked beans and watermelon — these iconic foodsyou’re your tools to make your spread a festive one. Start with a holiday-themed appetizer: Try puff pastry stars placed on sausage slices or make fruit skewers with yogurt dip using strawberries and blueberries. 

For guests with a sweet tooth, impress them with a red, white and blue dessert or serve an easy-to-prepare patriotic cocktail. Remind everyone in your group to drink responsibly.

2. Attempt a DIY project

Take on a holiday craft with the kids. Assemble paper pin-wheels in different patterns and sizes for a colorful wreath or paint Uncle Sam's image on a t-shirt. You could even make 4th of July sun catchers using only old crayons, wax paper, an iron and other household items. 

3. Have a blast with fireworks

Check out where firework displays are taking place in your area. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs, and arrive early to find the perfect viewing spot. Make sure to be mindful of pets who may be spooked by the noise. Also, if you plan on using firecrackers or fireworks, the National Council on Fireworks Safety advises everyone to obey local laws, read product cautionary labels, wear safety goggles, never give fireworks to children and remember that alcohol and fireworks don't mix.

4. Play games

Whether you party at the beach, the lake or in your own backyard, plan a fun group activity. Print free Bingo cards online, host a colorful balloon pop where guests compete for prizes, hold a costume competition or organize a scavenger hunt. If you want something more physical, play baseball, toss bags into a decorated cornhole board or simply splash around in the pool. Dry off while sipping a cherry or raspberry smoothie.

5. Take part in an Independence Day event

Search online for Fourth of July festivals. Does your city hosts a parade? Join the fun in your sunglasses, straw hat and sunscreen. Or maybe there’s a community barbecue or a symphony concert where you can enjoy “Stars and Stripes Forever” under a moonlit sky. But what if nothing is being planned in your area? Why, then plan something yourself. Make campfire s'mores, visit a military retirement home or spend an hour or two with a veteran who may be all alone this holiday. Whatever your plans — be prepared, stay safe and let freedom ring.