A dozen things you should know about fireworks

This article appeared in Ely Ensign in November 2004 on page 14 as a companion to the article Pioneering priest lights up Christian faith with a bang.


  1. In the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) firecrackers were made by roasting bamboo to produce the loud sound (known as “bian pao”) that was intended to frighten evil spirits.
  2. The discovery of gunpowder and the invention of the first true fireworks are traditionally credited to the Chinese, although India is also a likely source.
  3. In 1605 Guy Fawkes failed in his attempt to blow up parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Ever since, the British people have celebrated Fawkes’ arrest by filling the sky with exploding fireworks, and by burning an effigy of him each year on 5th November.
  4. Fireworks are associated with religious festivals in may parts of the world. Maltese villages have traditionally celebrated their patron saint’s day with fireworks and processions.
  5. A growing number of Anglian churches celebrate Ascension Day, the feast of Christ’s ascent into heaven, by letting off fireworks.
  6. Setting off fireworks between 11pm and 7am is only allowed in Britain at specific times of the year, such as New Year and Bonfire night.
  7. Musick for the Royal Fireworks was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 to celebrate the peace of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which had been declared the previous year.
  8. In the United States, fireworks were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War; the very first celebrations of Independence day were in 1777.
  9. This year (2004) Disneyland in California started using air-burst fireworks launched with compressed air rather than explosives. – the first time that such fireworks were used commercially
  10. Air-burst fireworks are detonated using an electronic timer; a compressed air launch reduced fumes and gives much greater accuracy in height and timing.
  11. Fireworks sold in Belgium contain more gunpowder than is allowed in the Netherlands and illegal trafficking of fireworks to the Netherlands often takes place.
  12. The Explosives Industry Group of the CBI have a safety website at http://www.fireworksafety.co.uk to help users of fireworks have a save and enjoyable celebration.
    (Note: New home of the Firework Safety manuals.)

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