Fireworks are the ultimate mark of celebrations, from Victoria Day long weekends to a record-breaking Olympic ceremonies and New Year’s Eve bashes. Today’s elaborate displays can feel pretty high-tech, even at the cottage, but fireworks have actually been around for thousands of years. Here are some fun facts about what goes into lighting up the skies.
1. There’s some debate around just how early fireworks were discovered but we do know that they were invented in China sometime between 200 BC and 900 AD. Fireworks have been used to mark important celebrations and festivals since and today, China is the largest fireworks manufacturer and exporter in the world.
2. Fireworks have come a long way from those early days when they contained just three ingredients: saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal.
3. Italian merchant and traveller Marco Polo is believed to have brought fireworks from China to Europe around the year 1295, starting the global spread of the sparkling invention.
4. China may have invented fireworks but in 1830, Italy gave them colour. Bright colours are created when burning different metallic powders within fireworks tubes. For example, calcium produces the colour orange, sodium makes yellow, and barium makes green.
5. Firework sounds can also be determined by different chemical combinations within the tubes. For example, cylindrical tubes create whistling sounds, aluminum flakes make hissing noises, and flash powder is responsible for the big, loud “booms.”
6. Americans love their fireworks. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, U.S. consumers purchased 163.6 million pounds of fireworks last year alone and fireworks displays used another 23.1 million pounds.
7. This past New Year’s Eve, Dubai set the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest fireworks display. Atlantis the Palm resort welcomed 2014 with an explosive show that packed in 400,000 fireworks over six minutes along 100 kilometres of beachfront.
8. Walt Disney World may just love fireworks the most. The resort consumes the largest amount of fireworks in the U.S. per year, thanks to nightly fireworks displays over the Magic Kingdom.
9. Canadians love them, too. The Canadian National Fireworks Association claims that the amount of fireworks imported into Canada increased by about 800 percent over a 10 year span (from 2001 to 2011).
10. If you thought the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics started with a bang, you were right. A whopping 22 tonnes of fireworks were used during the three-hour show.