Tomorrow, millions of Americans will gather to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of their nation in the US’s biggest national holiday. Here’s everything you need to know about the Fourth of July.
What is Independence Day?
Independence Day celebrates the day the US secured independence from the British Empire after the Revolutionary War. It falls on the Fourth of July every year.
What happened in the Revolutionary War?
Great Britain’s 13 North American colonies fought to separate themselves from the UK and rule by the King — then George III.
These East Coast colonies were; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
They went on to become the United States of America upon signing the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July 1776, although fighting continued for some time after this.
The American forces were led by George Washington and were supported with arms and supplies from France and Spain thanks to diplomatic efforts by Thomas Jefferson.
Why did the Americans want independence?
The relationship between the settlers and British had been amicable, however tensions started to escalate over the imposition of British laws and taxes.
«No taxation without representation» became the cry around 1765 after a rise in Britain’s national debt forced the colonists to raise import tariffs and crack down on smuggling to raise funds.
There was also a growing sense of nationalism in these largely agricultural colonies.
Acts of American colonial defiance began in the form of rebellions, fighting and protests.
In 1773, things escalated when patriots in Boston famously destroyed a shipment of tea by boarding three ships in Boston harbour and throwing 342 chests overboard in protest over the Tea Act. This became known as the «Boston Tea Party».
How long has Independence Day been celebrated for?
The first celebration was on the Fourth of July 1777 — the year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Thirteen gunshots were fired in salute — one for each of the original American colonies. But the «Independence Day» name wasn’t used until 1791.
In 1870 it was made an unpaid holiday for federal employees, and in 1938 US Congress finally made it the paid holiday it is today.
These rebellions over taxes led to full-scale revolutionary war.
How is the day celebrated in the US?
Nowadays it’s typically marked by patriotic activities — usually outside.
Think parades, camping, barbecues, beers and fireworks, with as much red, white and blue as possible — all punctuated with a backing track of «Star spangled banner», «Yankee Doodle» and «God Bless America».
Politicians also like to make a point of appearing at Independence Day celebrations and praising the nation’s heritage, history and people.
Who celebrates it apart from Americans?
The Philippines and Rwanda also observe Fourth of July anniversaries for their own reasons.
The US gave the Philippines independence on that day in 1946 and the Rwandan genocide ended with US help on 4 July 1994.
Rather more bizarrely, Denmark also celebrates the US version — it started with European expats in 1911, but now is just an «excuse for a nice day out».
When is Britain’s Independence Day?
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage made a case for the 23rd June to be Britain’s Independence Day last year, because that was the date of the 2016 Brexit vote in which he said the nation «took back control» from the European Union.
However, he was criticised by some who pointed out that liberation from colonial ownership was not really equivalent to Brexit.
And the point that most independence anniversaries around the world celebrate breaking from the British Empire has also been well made.
Any weird Independence Day facts?
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two signatories of the Declaration of Independence to later become President, both died on July 4 1826 — exactly fifty years after the declaration was signed.