(I was invited last night to give a short talk in an outdoor church gathering to watch a private fireworks display for Independence Day celebration. Here’s what I shared, and with some audience participation.)
Thank you for inviting us. Most of us are here to watch the fireworks. To be honest, I came for the food.
Fireworks is derived from the Greek word pyrotechnic, pyr (fire) + techne (art). And I thought pyrotechnic is an English word.
Here in America, we always associate fireworks with the 4th of July celebration. Do you know when was the first fireworks display in an Independence Day celebration?
(*someone shouted: “Many years after the Independence in 1776!”)
You will be surprise if I tell you that the first fireworks display was done during the first year anniversary of Independence Day in 1777. And it has been an American tradition since then.
Where did fireworks originated?
(*someone again shouted: “China!”)
You’re right. Around 2000 BC, in Luyang China, scribes wrote on bamboo stalks, as there was still no paper to write on. Then they will put these bamboo stalks in charcoal to dry. When they left the bamboo too long in the charcoal it cracked, giving a loud popping sound. That was the start of the concept of fireworks.
It was between 600 – 900 AD, again in China, when a Chinese alchemist inadvertently mixed saltpeter, which is potassium nitrate, with sulfur and charcoal. It went Kaboom! That was the early version of gunpowder.
(*someone shouted: “Did he became the one-arm alchemist?”)
I don’t know, but he perhaps was responsible for the start of the arms race.
It is no surprise that even to this day, 90% of all the fireworks produced in the world is made in China. Everything is made in China nowadays, and I don’t mean that as a political statement. I’m just stating a fact.
What gives the fireworks its colors? It is all about chemistry. It is the various metal salts. Metal salts are different from the table salt you used to sprinkle on your popcorn.
Since I am a geek, I looked it up. Different metal salts gives off different colors when heated up.
Red comes from lithium and strontium.
White is from magnesium and titanium.
Blue is from copper. Deep blue color is the hardest to produce.
And there you have it, the red, white and blue for the 4th of July. Of course there are also other metals that produce other colors that I did not mention.
Fireworks today just don’t go kaboom. They also crackle, hiss and whistle. What made the whistling sound? Again it is in chemistry. They ensure that the mixture of chemicals don’t burn too quickly and instead will have a slow release of gas.
I am still talking about fireworks here, and not the release of gas after you eat beans.
In the beginning, especially in China, fireworks were produced to scare away the evil spirits. Today, there are some that are scared of fireworks, especially animals like dogs.
There is a real condition in people that are afraid of fireworks. The term is “koutapyroergasoiphobia.”
Where do you think is the biggest display of fireworks during 4th of July celebration?
(*some shouted “Chicago” and some said “Disney!”)
The biggest 4th of July fireworks display is actually in New York City, where they set the fireworks in barges at the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge.
Yes, these beautiful fireworks will draw out “oohs” and “aahs,” yet even the grandest firework display will pale in comparison to the splendor of the heavenly fireworks when Jesus comes.
In a hymn entitled “It May Be At Morn” it says:
It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be that the blackness of midnight,
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
But there will be some people that will be afraid of that heavenly display. In Revelation 6:16 it says:
They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the thrown, and from the wrath of the Lamb,”
My friends, I pray that we would not be among those who fear His coming, but we would be joyful to see that heavenly fireworks and we would be among the other group as written in Matt 25:34:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
May we have a joyful and safe 4th of July. Thank you.