Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic, cultural, and religious purposes. A fireworks event (also called a fireworks show or pyrotechnics) is a display of the effects produced by firework devices. Fireworks competitions are also regularly held at a number of places. Fireworks take many forms to produce the four primary effects: noise, light, smoke and floating materials (confetti for example.) They may be designed to burn with flames and sparks of many colors, typically red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, silver and gold. Displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations.
The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. Important events and festivities such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and the Mid-Autumn Festival were and still are times when fireworks are guaranteed sights. China is the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.
Fireworks are generally classified as to where they perform, either as a ground or aerial firework. In the latter case they may provide their own propulsion (skyrocket) or be shot into the air by a mortar (aerial shell). The most common feature of fireworks is a paper or pasteboard tube or casing filled with the combustible material, often pyrotechnic stars. A number of these tubes or cases are often combined so as to make, when kindled, a great variety of sparkling shapes, often variously colored. The skyrocket is a common form of firework, although the first skyrockets were used in war. Such rocket technology has also been used for the delivery of mail by rocket and is used as propulsion for most model rockets. The aerial shell is the backbone of today’s commercial aerial display. A smaller version for consumer use is known as the festival ball in the United States. There are also ground fireworks which, while less popular than aerial fireworks, can produce various shapes, like rotating circles, stars and 3D globes.
The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. The art and science of firework making has developed into an independent profession. In China, pyrotechnicians were respected for their knowledge of complex techniques in mounting firework displays.
During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), many of the common people could purchase various kinds of fireworks from market vendors, and grand displays of fireworks were also known to be held. In 1110, a large fireworks display in a martial demonstration was held to entertain Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125) and his court. A record from 1264 states that a rocket-propelled firework went off near the Empress Dowager Gong Sheng and startled her during a feast held in her honor by her son Emperor Lizong of Song (r. 1224–1264). Rocket propulsion was common in warfare, as evidenced by the Huolongjing compiled by Liu Ji (1311–1375) and Jiao Yu (fl. c. 1350–1412). In 1240 the Arabs acquired knowledge of gunpowder and its uses from China. A Syrian named Hasan al-Rammah wrote of rockets, fireworks, and other incendiaries, using terms that suggested he derived his knowledge from Chinese sources, such as his references to fireworks as "Chinese flowers".
With the development of chinoiserie in Europe, Chinese fireworks began to gain popularity around the mid-17th century. Lev Izmailov, ambassador of Peter the Great, once reported from China: "They make such fireworks that no one in Europe has ever seen." In 1758, the Jesuit missionary Pierre Nicolas le Chéron d’Incarville, living in Beijing, wrote about the methods and composition on how to make many types of Chinese fireworks to the Paris Academy of Sciences, which revealed and published the account five years later. His writings would be translated in 1765, resulting in the popularization of fireworks and further attempts to uncover the secrets of Chinese fireworks.
Amédée-François Frézier published his revised work Traité des feux d’artice pour le spectacle (Treatise on Fireworks) in 1747 (originally 1706), covering the recreational and ceremonial uses of fireworks, rather than their military uses.
Music for the Royal Fireworks was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 to celebrate the Peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which had been declared the previous year.
Improper use of fireworks may be unsafe, both to the person operating them (risks of burns and wounds) and to bystanders; in addition, they may start fires after landing on flammable material. For this reason, the use of fireworks is generally legally restricted. Display fireworks are restricted by law for use by professionals; consumer items, available to the public, are smaller versions containing limited amounts of explosive material to reduce potential danger. Fireworks may pose a problem for animals, both domestic and wild, who can be terrified by the noise, leading to them running away or hurting themselves on fences or in other ways in an attempt to escape. With proper desensitization training the number of pets going missing due to fireworks can be reduced.
Pyrotechnical competitions involving fireworks are held in many countries. One of the most prestigious fireworks competitions is the Montreal Fireworks Festival, an annual competition held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Another magnificent competition is the Festival d’art pyrotechnique de Cannes held in the summer annually at the Bay of Cannes in Côte d’Azur, France. The World Pyro Olympics is an annual competition among the top fireworks companies in the world. It is held in Manila, Philippines. The event is one of the largest and most intense international fireworks competitions. DIFC DaNang International Fireworks Competition is held yearly in DaNang, Vietnam. Liuyang International Fireworks Competition held in Liuyang City, Hunan Province, China
Largest firework display of all time
Dubai during the 2014 New Years celebrations broke the record for the most fireworks ignited during a single coordinated display. According to Guinness World Records: "Covering a distance of over 94 km (58 mi) of the city’s seafront, the display incorporated some of Dubai’s top landmarks, including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. Ten months in planning, over 500,000 fireworks were used during the display which lasted around six minutes, with Guinness World Records adjudicators on hand to confirm that a new record had been set."
Largest Catherine wheel
A self-propelled vertical firework wheel was designed by The Lily Fireworks Factory and fired for at least one revolution on the eve of the annual festival of Our Lady Of The Lilies. The Lily Fireworks Factory, Mqabba, Malta currently possesses this record, burning a Catherine Wheel with a diameter of 32.044 m (105 ft 1.6 in), on June 18, 2011.
Longest firework waterfall
The world’s longest firework waterfall was the ‘Niagara Falls’, which measured 3,517.23 m (11,539 ft 6 in) when ignited on August 23, 2008 at the Ariake Seas Fireworks Festival, Fukuoka, Japan.
Most firework rockets launched in 30 seconds.
The most firework rockets launched in 30 seconds is 125,801, organized by Pyroworks International Inc. (Philippines), in Cebu, Philippines, on May 8, 2010.
Largest firework rocket
The largest firework rocket is 13.40 kg (29.5 lb) and was produced and launched by Associação Nacional de Empresas de Produtos Explosivos (Portugal) at the 12th International Symposium on Fireworks in Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, on October 13, 2010.
Enthusiasts in the United States have formed clubs which unite hobbyists and professionals. The groups provide safety instruction and organize meetings and private “shoots” at remote premises where members shoot commercial fireworks as well as fire pieces of their own manufacture. Clubs secure permission to fire items otherwise banned by state or local ordinances. Competitions are held among members and between clubs, demonstrating everything from single shells to elaborate displays choreographed to music. One of the oldest clubs is CrackerJacks, Inc., organized in 1976 in the Eastern Seaboard region of the U.S.
Pyrotechnics Guild International
The Pyrotechnics Guild International, Inc. or PGI, founded in 1969, is an independent worldwide nonprofit organization of amateur and professional fireworks enthusiasts. It is notable for its large number of members, around 3,500 in total. The PGI exists solely to further the safe usage and enjoyment of both professional grade and consumer grade fireworks while both advancing the art and craft of pyrotechnics and preserving its historical aspects. Each August the PGI conducts its annual week-long convention, where some the world’s biggest and best fireworks displays occur. Vendors, competitors, and club members come from around the USA and from various parts of the globe to enjoy the show and to help out at this all-volunteer event. Aside from the nightly firework shows, the competition is a highlight of the convention. This is a completely unique event where individual classes of hand-built fireworks are competitively judged, ranging from simple fireworks rockets to extremely large and complex aerial shells. Some of the biggest, best, most intricate fireworks displays in the United States take place during the convention week.
Amateur and professional members can come to the convention to purchase fireworks, paper goods, novelty items, non-explosive chemical components and much more at the PGI trade show. Before the nightly fireworks displays and competitions, club members have a chance to enjoy open shooting of any and all legal consumer or professional grade fireworks, as well as testing and display of hand-built fireworks. The week ends with the Grand Public Display on Friday night, which gives the chosen display company a chance to strut their stuff in front of some of the world’s biggest fireworks aficionados. The stakes are high and much planning is put into the show. In 1994 a shell of 36 inches (910 mm) in diameter was fired during the convention, more than twice as large as the largest shell usually seen in the USA, and shells as large as 24 inches (610 mm) are frequently fired.
Western Pyrotechnic Association
Because of enthusiasm for display fireworks west of the Rocky Mountains, The WPA was formed in 1989 in part because of the travel distances required to attend PGI events in the U.S. Mid-West. The organization sponsors two major firework events per year, almost always at Lake Havasu, Arizona. Activities are similar (except sometimes in scale) to those at PGI conventions. Most members of the WPA are firework professionals, who claim it’s essential to have a few opportunities per year to perform shows strictly for fun, as well as for other pros. Many of these men and women like to teach workshops (including manufacturing workshops) during these events as well.
Fireworks play a major role during the ceremonies for the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. In the opening ceremonies, the fireworks will go off all across the stadium when a person declares the competition open. This also occurs when the cauldron is officially lit by an athlete at the end of the ceremony with the Olympic Torch. In the closing ceremonies, the fireworks appear once again at the end when the flame is extinguished.
Fireworks celebrations throughout the world
Japanese fireworks festivals
During the summer in Japan, fireworks festivals (花火大会 hanabi taikai?) are held nearly every day someplace in the country, in total numbering more than 200 during August. The festivals consist of large fireworks shows, the largest of which use between 100,000 and 120,000 rounds (PL Art of Fireworks), and can attract more than 800,000 spectators. Street vendors set up stalls to sell various drinks and staple Japanese food (such as Yakisoba, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, kakigori (shaved ice), and traditionally held festival games, such as Kingyo-sukui, or Goldfish scooping.
Even today, men and women attend these events wearing the traditional Yukata, summer Kimono, or Jinbei (men only), collecting in large social circles of family or friends to sit picnic-like, eating and drinking,