Two hundred and twenty nine years ago America declared its independence from Great Britain. Since then, the anniversary has provided a colorful reason to celebrate the birth of democracy in this country and the freedoms Americans enjoy.

The Declaration of Independence was signed by representatives of the 13 American colonies, many of whom had fled persecution for their religious beliefs in Europe. The document not only granted religious freedom to all, it said Americans were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well.

During his annual July 4th holiday address Monday)President George W. Bush said that even after two centuries, the Declaration of Independence remains a revolutionary document.

"Through the centuries, this creed of freedom and equality has lifted the fortunes of all Americans. And we know that this great ideal of human freedom is entrusted to us in a special way, and that the ideal of liberty is worth defending." The president continued, "And on Independence Day, we remember that we also have essential responsibilities here at home, the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and the promise of liberty."

Every year during naturalization ceremonies, officials swear in thousands of new Americans. This year, over the 4th of July holiday more than 15,000 people will become new American citizens.

These new Americans emigrate for political, religious and personal reasons. They come from every continent and they bring their cultures and identities with them.

Chandana Goonewardene is a lab technician who lives in New York. Originally from Sri Lanka, he has lived in the U.S. for five years and hopes to become a citizen later this year. "We have freedom here, and so I like this. And as a celebration we're going to see fireworks and all those kind of things, so it's really a happy thing to celebrate."

The 4th of July holiday is typically a time for families to celebrate with picnics and travel to tourist destinations across the country. Jennifer Chang and her 12- year-old daughter Sarah recently visited Washington, D.C. from their home in Beijing, China. Ms. Chang said they wanted to experience the American Dream. "America is the most advanced country in the world. A lot of things to see. Washington, New York and Los Angeles. A lot of cities are famous, are very famous. So I dreamed to come here to have a look."

Abigail Levy is also visiting America. She lives in Israel but looked forward to her first American 4th of July. "We like America, it's a place of never-ending possibilities. It shows. It shows in everything."

Americans celebrate their independence with parades, concerts, and historical reenactments and of course, lots of fireworks.