July 4th: Why fireworks are part of the Independence Day celebration

The Fourth of July holiday is celebrated every year with familiar traditions such as barbecues, pool time, parades, and of course, fireworks. But when did fireworks come into the picture?

Surprisingly, fireworks -- or pyrotechnics -- have been a part of the Independence Day celebration from the beginning. One of the founding fathers, John Adams, even hoped they would be, according to The Associated Press.

The observance of independence should 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 wrote in a letter to his wife, dated July 3, 1776.

How did fireworks become part of July 4?

Fireworks are thought to be first used in China in the second century B.C., with bamboo sticks thrown into fires. This caused explosions as the hollow bamboo overheated, the American Pyrotechnics Association said.

By the 15th century, fireworks were being used in Europe in religious festivals and public entertainment. Eventually, the tradition was carried into the New World.

U.S. settlers brought fireworks with them from Europe, and they were part of America’s very first Independence Day celebration, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Fireworks as a celebration grew following the War of 1812, and the tradition spread across the country, reported.

Popularity of fireworks

Americans now celebrate with fireworks year ‘round, with sporting events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl, as well as New Year’s festivities, weddings, and other events, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Consumer use of fireworks has grown in recent years.

“People went to the fireworks store beginning Memorial Day weekend and they just didn’t stop,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, according to the AP. “They were firing off fireworks all of 2020. It shocked the industry, to be quite honest with you.”

The American Pyrotechnics Association’s statistics show that in 2000, Americans spent $407 million on fireworks, according to the AP. That grew to $2.3 billion in 2022. This year, sales are expected to rise another $100 million.

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