Around the world, how do fireworks differ? (And how are they the same?)

By Chinami Tajika
Northwest Asian Weekly

Image by Chinami Tajika/NWAW

It’s said that fireworks were invented more than 2,000 years ago in China. But the fireworks in those days were quite different from the fireworks of today.

History of fireworks

Originally, fireworks were used to scare people and wild animals. They were made of green bamboo and placed over an open fire, which caused an explosion due to the expanding air pockets trapped inside the bamboo stalk.

In 1200, the fireworks industry developed rapidly, which helped the Chinese military frighten their enemies.  Hundreds of manufacturers constantly made efforts to improve the technology of fireworks.

Marco Polo took fireworks to Europe, and Europeans were just entranced by the gunpowder. Afterwards, Italian fireworks makers became interested in the development of fireworks. They learned to mix other chemicals and powdered metals to produce gold or silver explosions instead of just white and yellow. This is the origin of what we know as fireworks today.

Chinese Fireworks

In China, it has been a tradition to welcome the New Year with fireworks. People publicly display fireworks, which symbolize the sending out of the old and the ushering in of the new.  Children can be seen playing with firecrackers. However, fireworks are now banned in some regions of China due to concerns over fire hazards.

Russian fireworks

On May 5, fireworks can be seen on Victory Day in Russia. It is the day when, in 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered after a 4-year war with the Soviet Union and other countries. After a minute of silence in memory of the deceased, fireworks are displayed.

Indian fireworks

Diwali, one of the biggest and most popular festivals of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, is the festival of lights that takes place between the middle of October and middle of November.

This festival is celebrated to mark Lord Rama’s victory over the wicked King Ravana. In classic text, Ravana was an emperor that kidnapped Sita, the wife of Rama. After a great battle, Rama killed Ravana and recovered his wife.

Many Indians brightened the entire city with oil lamps to welcome Rama and Sita. They also used fireworks to celebrate the death of the wicked Ravana.

Pakistani fireworks

On Aug. 14, people celebrate the day that Pakistan gained its independence from the British Indian Empire and became an independent state for Muslims.

All over the country, people decorate their house with color and fly the national flag on their housetops. At night, fireworks are displayed in many cities. On this day, people pray for the country and take pride in being Pakistanis.

Dec. 25 is a holiday dedicated to the memory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Although it’s a public holiday, Pakistanis who are Christian pack the church for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks, which help celebrate the start of Bara Din, meaning The Big Day.

Nepalese fireworks

Children love to play with fireworks during Tihar, the festival of lights. However, because firecrackers are dangerous and can be harmful, they are banned in Nepal these days.

Japanese fireworks

Fireworks are hugely popular and a very important part of Japanese summer. People get dressed up in traditional Japanese yukata (traditional summer attire) and make their way with thousands of other people to see fireworks. The festivals are often held along the river. People are allowed to use firecrackers and can be seen playing with fireworks on the streets during the summer.

Indonesian fireworks

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the month in which people are expected to fast for 29 or 30 days. On the 27th day of Ramadan, fireworks are often used to celebrate the night of power, which refers to the night when Muhammad first received revelation of the Koran in 610. For children, breaking the fast is the time to play with fireworks with the family.

Vietnamese fireworks

It’s very common to display fireworks on Lunar New Year’s Eve and Day, which is called Tet in Vietnam. Fireworks have an important role in Tet. The explosions are believed to drive off ghosts and evil spirits and leave good luck in the New Year.

Philippine fireworks

The Barrio Fiesta, honoring all patron saints of the different towns, villages, and regional districts, is celebrated with ceremonies that are held in the churches and followed by street parades. The fireworks are held after the cockfight tournaments, Cockfighting is the most popular sport in the Philippines.

This year, on the Fourth of July, what fantastic fireworks can we expect to see in Seattle?  ♦

Chinami Tajika can be reached at

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