When I was a kid, we used to spend the Fourth of July with my mother’s family in the mountains of North Carolina. Every year we would go to Lake Junaluska to see the fireworks display. It was always a highlight to an already exciting week. After the festivities were over, we would go back and have our own display with firecrackers, roman candles and sparklers. In some ways, this part was even more exciting than the big display. We were completely fascinated by fireworks.
Fireworks originated in China and it’s believed that the first firecrackers were chunks of green bamboo thrown onto fires. When the bamboo heated up the sides burst causing a bang. Firecrackers became a popular way to scare off evil spirits and they eventually became a popular part of the Lunar New Year, weddings, births and other celebrations. The ritual was said to bring prosperity and good fortune.
When the Chinese inadvertently created gunpowder (apparently they were trying to make an elixir of life), fireworks became bigger and more powerful. Thanks to Marco Polo’s travels to Asia, the Italians became enraptured with firecrackers. By adding certain metals and charcoal they were able to create showers of sparks. Elaborate fountains and dragons became popular to make the displays even more spectacular. In the 1800s advancements in chemistry made it possible to add colors to fireworks.
On July 4th, 1777, the one year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia celebrated with bonfires, bells and fireworks. The tradition spread across the country and it has become the climax of the 4th of July celebration.
So as you watch the fireworks or create your own display, have fun, be safe and make a wish for prosperity and good fortune!