New Year’s Eve Fireworks

December 26, 2021

New Year’s Eve is a joyous occasion where we reflect on and say goodbye to the past year and look forward to the New Year with idealism and hope. It can be full of fun and exciting traditions, such as feasts, parties with family and friends, resolutions, and of course, spectacular fireworks displays. Some of us may venture out to see a fireworks display, while some of us may stay in the comfort of our own home and view a display on our television. Fireworks is New Year’s Eve is a tradition that’s enjoyed worldwide with origins dating back much further than we may realize.

Many sources attribute the origins of fireworks to ancient China. These sources cite that as early 200 B.C., dried bamboo was thrown on fires and would explode once the air expanded inside the hollow stalks, which would cause a loud sound and the first firecracker emerged. This first, very basic type of firecracker is said to have been used to frighten off evil spirits and encourage good luck.

Somewhere between 600 and 900 A.D., it has been said Chinese alchemists took the next steps to develop firecrackers when they combined sulfur, saltpeter, charcoal, among other ingredients, which unbeknownst to them, became an early form of gunpowder. The Chinese would pack this substance into bamboo stalks and then throw them into fires that would cause loud explosions. Later on, paper tubes came to replace bamboo stalks and the Chinese identified other purposes for using their invention outside of warding off evil spirits and for celebrations, when in the 10th century, firecrackers were incorporated into weapons (i.e. “crude bombs”) used against enemies during military battles.

It’s been said that during the 13th century, gunpowder, as well as samples of firecracker formulas started to make their way into Europe by explorers, diplomats, and Franciscan missionaries. During this time, scientists worked diligently to build upon and improve on gunpowder for the purpose of weaponry, such as cannons and muskets. It was also during this time that fireworks were used to honour military victories, and eventually for public celebrations, as well as religious ceremonies.

According to some sources, during the Renaissance, fireworks continued to advance with the Italians, who launched projectiles and slowly burnt powdered metals, as well as charcoal in open tubes to develop sparklers, eventually creating the colourful bursts of light and explosions we’re used to seeing in fireworks presentations today. The Italians became widely recognized for their advanced displays.

It has been said that by the 1730s, colonists from England brought fireworks and their fondness for them to the Americas where fireworks displays occurred on Independence Day in 1777. The tradition took hold and eventually became a regular occurrence for celebrating events, such as presidential inaugurations and New Year’s Eve.

The tradition of fireworks has evolved over the centuries, but the joy and excitement they bring to contemporary New Year’s celebrations certainly hasn’t. Fireworks displays are a reminder of the renewed hope and optimism we associate with the impending New Year. As the Member of Parliament for Dufferin-Caledon, I wish you a wonderful New Year’s celebration however you may choose to spend the holiday and a very happy and healthy 2017!