Independence Day: What is it? Why is it celebrated on 4 July?

USA (July 4)  Today, Americans gather to celebrate Independence Day, which marks an event of massive historical significance for the country. These are the origins America's biggest holiday.

What is it?

4 July is the most significant national holiday in the United States. It celebrates the Declaration of Independence, adopted on 4 July, 1776. The Thirteen Colonies of America declared themselves to be states and no longer part of the British Empire, though the revolutionary war continued for some time after.

What’s the story behind it?

The original United States of America was made up of a collection of East Coast states known as the Thirteen Colonies. These were: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

These mainly agricultural colonies were run by the British - who had been present on the continent since 1587 - and exploited for their resources, in particular tobacco.

While the relationship between the settlers and British was once amicable, tensions began to escalate over British laws and taxes, such as the Sugar Act, driven by British financial needs. There was also a growing sense of nationalism in the country.

From 1765, some settlers began to demand ‘no taxation without representation’, calling for their voice to be heard in the British parliament.

This tension sometimes erupted into fighting and acts of dissent, such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The event was a protest against the Tea Act, legislation which gave the British East India Company a monopoly on sales of tea in the Thirteen Colonies.

Further ill feeling was caused by the Coercive Acts – which became known as the ‘Intolerable Acts’ to American Patriots – which were implemented in response to the Boston Tea Party. The laws took power away from semi-autonomous Massachusetts.

All markets in the USA are closed today - and will open normal hours on Tuesday.