Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for religious, entertainment & artistic events. The most popular way to ignite a firework is during a fireworks display. A fireworks display is a collection of pyrotechnic devices ignited in a pre-determined order with the goal of entertaining a crowd. These fireworks displays can take the form of wedding displays, fireworks competitions, or the most common form (in the UK), that of a Bonfire Night fireworks display.
Fireworks have four primary effects, those of noise, light, smoke and floating materials (parachutes, or 'wind-bell' firework shells). These fireworks are designed to burn with chemical reactions resulting in various colours and shapes forming in the sky, for example red. gold, silver, or blue peony-style bursts. Fireworks displays have become not only popular but more and more common throughout the world and are often now the main focus of religious or cultural events.
The earliest record of the detonation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, the country in which they were invented. There, fireworks were used to alight various festivities. Chinese culture dictates that fireworks be used for many different forms of celebration and it was from here that the popularity of fireworks spread westwards. For the Chinese important events and festivities like the Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year) and their Mid-Autumn Festival are times when fireworks are guaranteed to be on show. To this day China remains the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.
Fireworks in the UK have adopted self-explanatory classifications, such as rockets or single ignition fireworks. There are also terms such as multishot fireworks and aerial, or ground-based fireworks, which are equally simplistic to understand.
In the case of rockets they include their own propellers so as to send themselves unaided (save for a lit fuse) into the sky. The most common requirement of a firework is a paper or pasteboard tube or casing filled with the combustible material, known as gunpowder. Often these tubes are grouped together to form a multishot fireworks (known as a 'repeater' in the United States) whereby one fuse lights a 'single ignition' fireworks display of great variety, including various shapes, colours and noises.
The rocket is the most well-known form of firework, and the first of these were used in war. Rockets can reach speeds of up to 150mph.
The first fireworks are thought to have been made in China, around 2,000 years ago, and the types used then are now known as Chinese crackers. These loud fireworks are still used in China today to celebrate everything from weddings to the opening of new buildings (to frighten away evil spirits!). Chinese crackers are illegal in the UK.
The first recorded fireworks in England were at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486. During the reign of Henry VIII they gained even more popularity, and by the time Queen Elizabeth I came to power (1558-1603) there existed a title of "Master of Fire" for the person who created the best fireworks. James II knighted his "Master of Fire" after an apparently spectacular fireworks display at his coronation.
Other interesting facts about Fireworks:
The word for firework in Japanese, 'hanabi', means 'fire-flower'.
50% of all firework accidents happen to minors, largely because of them handling the hot metal of sparklers after they have seemingly finished burning.
Englishman Captain John Smith was the first person to put on a fireworks display in the USA. This became a better known fact in the story of Pocahontas.
Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blow-torch.
The world's largest single firework was a firework shell set off in Japan in the year 1988. The shell weighed over half a tonne and was used during a festival. It measured half a kilometre across in the sky.
In the UK, throwing a firework in a public place is a criminal offence with punishable with up to a £5000 fine.
Last year over 900 people in the UK required hospital treatment from accidents with fireworks. Follow these rules to make sure you don't become one of these people: