We see fireworks all the time, and they are usually a sign of celebration. We see them on the 4th of July in red, white, and blue. We see them on New Year’s, if every color, shape and form. Fireworks go off every night at Disney World, some even shaped like Mickey Mouse! You may even see them at birthday parties. You never know. We’ve all seen fireworks and they never cease to disappoint. But exactly what’s the story behind these crazy babies?
The birthplace of fireworks is generally recognized as China, with the first explosive mixture found being black powder, during the Sung dynasty. Legend has it that fireworks were discovered or invested by a Chinese cook working in a field kitchen who happened to mix charcoal, sulfur, and salt peter. The mixture burned and when compressed in an enclosure (a bamboo tube), the mixture exploded. Slowly the theory took roots that this loud sound was perfect to chase away evil spirits. Sparks were a good omen, sound could frighten ghosts, and smoke could create a healthy atmosphere. Fireworks had universal appeal as they combined these three elements.
In modern China, much like their ancestors, people set off fireworks to express their happiness and to pray for peace and invite good luck during festivals. Fireworks are truly rooted in people’s consciousness and play an important role in a host of national celebrations and local festivals.
The first application of this technology was for entertainment. Once the recipe for black powder was perfected, the Chinese found that it was easily used as rocket fuel, and they made hand carved wooden rockets in the shape of a dragon, in the sixth century. These rockets shot rocket powered arrows from their mouth, and were used against the Mongol invaders. The principle behind these rockets is still used in rocket powered fireworks today.
The earliest settlers brought their love of fireworks to this country. Firings of black powder were used to celebrate holidays and to...