10 Famous Americans Who Were Born on the Fourth of July

RuthBlack, iStock / Getty Images Plus
RuthBlack, iStock / Getty Images Plus

One of our favorite pieces of presidential trivia is that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, and James Monroe followed in their footsteps exactly five years later. However, there's only one president, who was born on the Fourth of July: Calvin Coolidge. Although they may not have been presidents, here are 10 other people who celebrate their birthdays on the same day as the United States.

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne // 1804

You no doubt remember Hawthorne from your ninth-grade English class: he wrote The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, among other things. He also wrote a biography of president Franklin Pierce, whom he counted among his good friends.

2. Stephen Foster // 1826

Foster is sometimes called the "Father of American Music" because he wrote the tunes that have been frequently stuck in our heads ever since: "Oh! Susanna," "Camptown Races," "Beautiful Dreamer," "My Old Kentucky Home," and "Swanee River," to name a few. And, you'll notice he was born on the same date that Adams and Jefferson died.

3. Louis B. Mayer // 1882

The story goes that Mayer chose his own birthday when he came to America with his parents. He also chose his name, his birthplace, and his birth year—he was born Lazar Meir in a small town in Belarus, but by the time he became involved with the movie business, he was Louis B. Mayer, born July 4, 1885, from Minsk. You'd know him best as the third name in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a.k.a. MGM.

4. Rube Goldberg // 1883

Reuben "Rube" Goldberg wasn't just the namesake for large-scale, complex, ridiculous contraptions. He was also a famous political cartoonist and won a Pulitzer in 1948 for a cartoon called "Peace Today."

5. and 6. Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren // 1918

Twin advice columnists Ann Landers (born Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman) and Dear Abby (born Pauline "Popo" Esther Friedman) grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. It's safe to say that they didn't celebrate many adult birthdays together; although they were very close in their younger years (they even had a joint wedding), a falling out caused the two to stop speaking to one another for years.

7. Neil Simon // 1927

The New York playwright won numerous Tony Awards and a Pulitzer for his comedic shows, including The Odd Couple and Biloxi Blues. In 1983, he became the only living playwright to have a Broadway theater named for him.

8. George Steinbrenner // 1930

It's fitting that the legendary owner of the baseball team formerly known as the New York Americans was born on July 4th, don't you think? (That would be the Yankees—a newspaper editor coined that name in 1904.)

9. Geraldo Rivera // 1943

The tabloid talk show host/journalist was born "Gerald" in New York City, but when graduated college and headed into the reporting field, he changed it to what his Puerto Rican father's side of the family called him.

10. Ron Kovic // 1946

Kovic is the Vietnam Vet who wrote the book Born on the Fourth of July, which was later turned into the movie starring Tom Cruise. During his second tour of Vietnam, he became paralyzed from a gunshot wound that caused a spinal cord injury. Upon his return to the U.S., he became arguably the most famous veteran peace activist.

This story was updated in 2019.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images
Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images
Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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