"Rip Van Winkle" is about the radical transformations that followed the American Revolutionary War, and the region's transition from colony to independent country. This large-scale transformation is paralleled by the transformations within the Rip's village, which has undergone dramatic changes since Rip fell asleep.
When Rip returns from the mountains, he finds that the village is much larger than he remembers, filled with unfamiliar people. Similarly, fashions have changed, as he observes people in new and unfamiliar styles of dress.
When he comes to the old village inn, now called "the Union Hotel," he finds further changes (symbolically illustrated by the change in portrait from King George to George Washington). Whereas the inn used to be a place of placidity, now it is crowded and tempestuous, full of citizens impassioned about politics and elections. These transformations reflect the transformations within the country itself. Rip missed this history, however, having slept through the Revolution.
Yet, for all this, it is important to recognize that there are some continuities that remain. We see this clearly illustrated in Rip Van Winkle's son, who has inherited his father's laziness. We see this also in the example of Rip Van Winkle himself, who resumes much of his previous habits and lifestyle in these post-Revolutionary years. In these examples, we find that, for all of the Revolution's social and political transformations, some aspects of life have remained constant across time.