History of fireworks is a blast

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, July 6, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
As the 4th of July holiday weekend came and went, many of us flocked to see fireworks display or even bought our own to set off legally or illegally in the setting of our choice.
Fireworks are one of our favorite traditions for Independence Day, and in a weekend spent at varying points in Atmore, Brewton, Birmingham, and Montgomery, I was treated to fireworks in varying levels.
Many of us have great memories of fireworks, whether it be cuddling with a loved one to watch a fireworks display, or shooting bottle rockets at each other out in the woods (I always hid behind a car during those shenanigans).
My inquisitive reporter's mind, however, had me wondering where these traditions started. Luckily, the wonderful internet has a resource for such questions, known as wikipedia.org.
According to that online encyclopedia, the first "fireworks" were actually developed in the Han Dynasty in China, between 206 B.C. and 220 A.D. They were made by roasting bamboo to produce a loud pop, known as "bian pao" in Chinese. The intent, which was actually a common thread among different cultures, was to ward off evil spirits.
The discovery of gunpowder in the early parts of the last millennium produced the first true fireworks, and that discovery is generally credited to the Chinese, again. India is also thought to have developed fireworks during this time.
That's an interesting thought, however. While our ancestors in Europe were developing gunpowder to kill each other, our friends in the Far East were using them to marvel at pyrotechnics.
Fireworks quickly spread to Europe, though, and our ancestors brought them to America with them. It is said that the first anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1777 was celebrated with fireworks, and that tradition has endured to this day. George Washington's inauguration as our first president was also celebrated with a massive fireworks display in 1789.
So for anyone wondering where fireworks came from, now you know.
Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Independence Day weekend, got some rest, and took some time to thank their respective deity that they live in a country this free.
At times like these, our freedom should be greatly important to us. Most of us spent this weekend in front of the grill or lounging around the house, while many of our best young men and women are on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan facing death at every turn.
While terrorists are of little threat to our own freedom, it is important to remember that the lack of freedom in the nations they came from has produced a great deal of the hatred our enemies have for this wonderful country; and in that respect President Bush is right that freedom should be spread throughout the world.
However, as the struggle in Iraq has shown, that is not an easy task and we must hold hope that some day, some way, our troops can come home with the task completed and two more nations can enjoy the same things we have taken for granted.
It'd put us one step closer to the peaceful world our grandfathers fought and died for 60 years ago.
Tim Cottrell is a staff reporter for the Atmore Advance. His column appears weekly.

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