A firework is a low explosive pyrotechnic device used primarily for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. The most common use of a firework is as part of a fireworks display. A fireworks event (also called a fireworks show or pyrotechnics) is a display of the effects produced by firework devices on various occasions. Fireworks competitions are also regularly held at a number of places. The biggest fireworks event in the world is held in Madeira, Portugal at the New Yearsâ€™ Eve celebrations, as documented in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Fireworks take many forms to produce the four primary effects: noise, light, smoke, and floating materials (confetti for example). They may be designed to burn with colored flames and sparks. Displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many different cultural and religious celebrations.
Fireworks were originally invented by the Chinese, for entertainment purposes, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder. In China, they were first made by firework masters who were well respected for their knowledge of the many complex techniques used to create firework displays. Such important events and festivities as Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival were and still are times when fireworks are guaranteed sights. China is the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world. China is estimated to have exported over 6 million cases or 120,000 tons of fireworks to the US in 2005.
Fireworks are generally classified as to where they perform, either as a ground or aerial firework. In the latter case they may provide their own propulsion (skyrocket) or be shot into the air by a mortar (aerial shell).
The most common feature of fireworks is a paper or pasteboard tube or casing filled with the combustible material, often pyrotechnic stars. A number of these tubes or cases are often combined so as to make, when kindled, a great variety of sparkling shapes, often variously colored. The skyrocket is a common form of firework, although the first skyrockets were used in war. The aerial shell, however, is the backbone of todayâ€™s commercial aerial display, and a smaller version for consumer use is known as the festival ball in the United States. Such rocket technology has also been used for the delivery of mail by rocket and is used as propulsion for most model rockets.
Improper use of fireworks may be dangerous, both to the person operating them (risks of burns and wounds) and to bystanders; in addition, they may start fires after landing on flammable material. For this reason, the use of fireworks is generally legally restricted. In the U.S., fireworks are classified as either consumer or display fireworks based upon the amount of pyrotechnic composition an item contains. Display fireworks are restricted by law for use by professionals. Consumer items are available to the public and are smaller versions containing limited explosives.