Fireworks have become a must-have part of major celebrations. Whether you're ringing in the New Year or enjoying Bonfire Night, a dazzling firework display is guaranteed to fill you with wonder and delight.

If you've chosen to put on your own firework display instead of going to an organised event, there's a lot to think about beforehand. From different types of fireworks to safety precautions, we've put together all the info you need to help things go off with a bang!

A brief history of fireworks

Fireworks are associated with celebrations and parties, but modern-day fireworks can be traced back to an ancient Chinese tradition. During the Chinese New Year festival, people would throw dry bamboo stalks onto a fire, to try and create a loud explosive sound to ward off evil spirits.

Then one day, an alchemist (a sort of scientist), who was searching for the secret to immortality, mixed together charcoal, sulphur and potassium nitrate, accidentally creating what we now know as gunpowder. This explosive mixture was soon added to the hollow bamboo to create the loud noise the Chinese were after. Eventually, paper tubes were used in place of bamboo, and the first form of fireworks was born.

Different types of fireworks

Sparklers: a popular addition to any firework display or event, sparklers are hand-held fireworks that burn over a short period, producing a brilliant shower of golden sparks.

Fountain: a stationary firework that produces a shower of crackling sparks that can reach up to 6 metres.

Mine: producing a spectacular explosion of varying colours and effects, mines may have loud whistles, floral bursts and vibrant stars.

Roman candle: Roman candles are long tubes that shoot out a steady stream of stars and colourful balls which flash and explode.

Rocket: rockets are aerial fireworks that are propelled into the sky, leaving a trail of glittering stars before finishing with an explosive burst.

Shot tube: shot tubes create spectacular starbursts with crackling palms and stars; they can be used as an alternative to rockets.

Single ignition: made with a combination of roman candles, single ignition fireworks produce a long-lasting, dazzling aerial burst after lighting a single fuse.

Selection boxes: containing an assortment of fireworks, selection boxes are a complete display within a single box.

Tips to remember when buying fireworks

  • It's illegal for anyone under the age of 18 years to buy fireworks, or to possess them in a public place.
  • Be sure to buy fireworks from a reliable, trustworthy retailer, such as Tesco direct.
  • Always look for fireworks that comply with the British Standards, which will have BS 7114 labelled on the box.
  • It is an offence to let fireworks off between 11pm and 7am, except for Bonfire Night (until midnight), and Diwali, New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year (until 1am for these celebrations).
  • Be aware of the different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under categories 1, 2 or 3. Category 4 fireworks can only be used by professionals.

Firework and sparkler safety

To enjoy a fun, accident-free event, be sure to closely follow firework safety guidelines:

  • Store fireworks in a secure and dry place.
  • Remember to check the fireworks for damage. If they have any dents or appear to have come into contact with water, you should dispose of them appropriately.
  • Always read and follow the instructions for each firework.
  • Ignite the firework at arm's length with a taper and retreat to a safe distance as quickly as possible.
  • Never return to a firework that fails to go off, as it could go off after a time delay.
  • Don't drink alcohol before setting off fireworks.
  • Always supervise children with sparklers, and never give them to a child under the age of 5 years.
  • Wear gloves when handling sparklers, and keep a bucket of sand or water handy for used sparklers.
  • Keep pets indoors and shut all doors and windows to minimise noise.

Planning your event

Proper preparation and careful planning are necessary for any firework display. To ensure your event runs smoothly, take the following into consideration:

  • Choose a suitable site with plenty of space and fairly soft ground.
  • Check for obstructions near the firing area, including overhead power lines and trees.
  • Ensure there is a safety area between the fireworks and spectators (at least 25 metres).

On the day of the event

When setting up your firework display, you will need:

  • A torch, gloves and eye protection for the person lighting the fireworks.
  • A bucket of water or sand for extinguishing sparklers.
  • A bucket of sand or earth for used fireworks.
  • A taper for lighting fireworks.
  • Supports or launcher tubes for rockets.
  • A first aid kit in case of any accidents.

Disposal of fireworks

Used fireworks can potentially cause injuries after firing, so be sure to handle them with care and dispose of them safely. You should:

  • Fill a large bucket with water and fully submerge fireworks overnight. When they are thoroughly cooled, wrap them in a plastic bag and place them in a rubbish bin.
  • If you don't feel comfortable placing them in your own bin, contact your local fire authority for advice.