by lakeerieartists

Fireworks are used globally for major holidays and celebrations, and in the United States are used especially to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Every Fourth of July, my husband and I wait until dusk, then go about a mile from our home to sit on the lawn and watch the fireworks display that is put on by the neighboring community to ours. When I was a child, just about every community in our local area put on a fireworks display, but after people continued getting injured by the fireworks, laws were enacted that made the distance from between the observers and the fireworks required to be much wider.

That cut down on the amount of communities that could put on a fireworks display, and in the ensuing years, even more communities stopped the displays due to finances. However, there are still several places in our local area that you can see some truly awe inspiring fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Watching Fireworks is Fascinating

Even as an adult

Fireworks are one of the few things that adults respond to as if they were still children.  It seems that we must forget the beauty of the colors, and power of the explosions between each viewing.  But, it never ceases to amaze me, each time I watch the fireworks, how stunning they are.


Fourth of July Fireworks

Fourth of July Fireworks
Fourth of July Fireworks

Fireworks Must Be Viewed in Person

PIctures never do them justice

There is really no way to get a good picture of a fireworks display.  You can get a picture, and it will be interesting, but it doesn't capture the sounds, the movement of the lights through the sky, or the blending of one color into another that you see when watching actual fireworks.


Began in China

The scientific name for fireworks is pyrotechnics.  Pyrotechnics is a fancy way of saying colorful explosion.  A fireworks display is created by the lighting on fire of a variety of combustible materials that are designed to shoot out colorful ribbons, showers, or sparks.  Fireworks are actually closely related to the mortars and rockets used in war, and the skyrocket was originally used during war.  Fireworks skyrockets are the most commonly used fireworks, and they resemble the model rockets that children play with or use for scientific experiments.  They are essentially paper or cardboard tubes filled with combustible materials.

Pyrotechnics began as far back as China in the 7th century when fireworks were used to frighten evil spirits, and to celebrate.  Fireworks design and manufacture became a professional career in China that was highly honored.

Fireworks Can Be Dangerous

They are regulated for safety

Fireworks can cause injury to the operator, the manufacturer, the designer, and also to observers.  In addition, they can start fires by landing on flammable surfaces that are too close to the display.  Not every fireworks display works properly, and sometimes they come down from the sky still burning.  In the United States, fireworks displays are now carefully regulated to keep the operators, observers, and the surrounding neighborhoods safe.

Even so, it is still possible to be injured.  I was at a fireworks display one Fourth of July, where the wind picked up, and blew burning sparks down on the crowd.  No one was seriously hurt, but they could have been.

More Fireworks


Buying Consumer Fireworks in the United States

Commercial fireworks are restricted

The U.S. Federal Government strictly restricts the use of commercial grade fireworks, but consumer grade fireworks sales are regulated by the individual states. 

Each state has different laws that govern whether fireworks can be sold, and when and where they can be sold.  It is extremely common for residents of states where you cannot buy fireworks to go to a neighboring state to buy them.

Types of Fireworks Displays

Different styles or effects

There are many different types of fireworks, and new techniques are being discovered each year.  Some of the more common effects are listed here:

  • Peony--A circular break of colored stars that burn without a tail effect.
  • Chrysanthemum--A circular break of colored stars, with stars that leave a trail of sparks.
  • Ring--A shell with stars specially arranged so as to create a ring. 
  • Crossette--A shell containing several large stars that travel a short distance before breaking apart into smaller stars, creating a crisscrossing effect.
  • Horsetail--This shell features heavy long-burning tailed stars that only travel a short distance from the shell burst before free-falling to the ground. 
  • Time Rain--An effect created by large, slow-burning stars within a shell that leave a trail of large glittering sparks behind and make a sizzling noise.
  • Multi-Break Shells--A large shell containing several smaller shells of various sizes and types. The initial burst scatters the shells across the sky before they explode.
  • Fish--Inserts that propel themselves rapidly away from the shell burst, often looking like fish swimming away.
  • Salute--A shell intended to produce a loud report rather than a visual effect. Salute shells usually contain flash powder, producing a quick flash followed by a very loud report.

Fireworks Colors Come from Pyrotechnic Chemical Compounds

Each color in a fireworks display is created by burning certain chemicals.

  • White--Titanium, Aluminum, Beryllium, Magnesium
  • Red--Strontium or Lithium
  • Orange--Calcium
  • Yellow--Sodium
  • Green--Barium
  • Blue--Copper
  • Indigo--Cesium
  • Purple--Potassium or Rubidium
  • Gold--Charcoal, Iron, or Lampblack

Some of the chemical compounds are more stabile than others, and they are used in combination due to their chemical properties, and stability.

Images credit

Learn More About Fireworks Science and History

Fireworks : A History and Celebration
$7.98  $28.0
A History of Fireworks
George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd.
$54.96  $59.99
Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Scien...
University of Chicago Press
$60.9  $46.13
The Explosive Story of Fireworks!: Re...
Simon Spotlight
$4.99  $1.3
Artificial Fireworks: Improved To The...
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Pl...
Only $19.99
The Pyrotechnist's Treasury: A Guide ...
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Pl...
Only $11.95
In the United States, July 4th is Independence Day, celebrated in the entire country. Citizens show their patriotism by flying American flags, and wearing red, white and blue.
Updated: 10/01/2014, lakeerieartists
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buttonhead on 03/27/2012

Wow! I had no idea that fireworks dated back to the 7th century. Very interesting!

WebaliciousGuides on 10/04/2011

I love firework displays. It was interesting to learn about all the different types of fireworks - I didn't realise they had different names.

Dianne on 06/01/2011

We used to watch the fireworks display on Lake Tahoe every year. It was always spectacular. Now there isn't really a good display where we live.

mulberry on 05/30/2011

Well that was educational! I had no idea what the different firework displays were called.

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