Fireworks originated in China long ago

by | July 3, 2018 9:15 am

Last Updated: July 3, 2018 at 12:09 pm

As we come to the end of the summer holiday season, many will have enjoyed fireworks, whether at home or at one of the local public events. Fireworks have long been a staple at Fourth of July celebrations. But how did they become associated with the holiday?

Fireworks are over 1,300 years old, originating in China in the seventh century. The Chinese people used them at various festivals, believing not only would the fireworks scare away evil spirits but would also bring good fortune and happiness. Eventually, this led to using them to honor dignitaries and royalty, as well as for entertainment purposes.

The Arabic peoples acquired gunpowder in 1240, creating rockets and fireworks. Through the 1500s, gunpowder usage spread across Europe, India and Asia. By the mid-1600s, at the height of the era where Europeans imitated Chinese and other East Asian traditions and artistic styles, fireworks became widely used and highly popular.

Fireworks crossed to North America in the 1700s and were used prior to the American Revolution. They became linked to the Fourth of July celebrations before the very first celebration occurred. John Adams, one of our founding fathers, predicted Independence Day would become an annual celebration. He wrote about it to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776.

“(This) the Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epoch, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Adams got the date wrong, as the Declaration of Independence was not fully approved until July 4, 1776, but his prediction about the holiday was correct. The first Independence Day celebration in 1777, approved by Congress and held in Philadelphia, was highlighted by a large fireworks display which began and ended with 13 rockets fired on the commons. Boston similarly held a fireworks display in 1777.

Worcester, Massachusetts, began their periodic fireworks celebrations for July 4th in 1779. Charleston was the fourth major city to include fireworks in their Independence Day celebrations in 1783. Due to concerns about fire in the city, however, all fire engines were placed in different areas of the town on standby.

In the 1830s, chemists figured out how to add color to the displays, taking fireworks to a new level. Before the end of the nineteenth century, fireworks had become entrenched as part of Independence Day displays across the growing nation.

Today, it’s not difficult to find a public fireworks display to enjoy around the holiday. In Clarendon County, Manning will hold the Red, White and Blue Celebration from 7 p.m. to midnight on July 3 at the Redbarn on Church Street. There will be food, face painting, music and balloon art. A fireworks display will be held after the sun goes down.

Another display will be held on July 4 in the Camp Bob Cooper area of Lake Marion, with fireworks beginning after sundown. These events will allow residents to enjoy fireworks without cost or risk as the nation comes together to celebrate the birth of her independence.

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