As the UK prepares to fill its sky with the pops, cracks, whistles and bangs of the Fifth of November’s fireworks, we look to the rest of the world to see what ignites their fire and why. It’s not just the fall of Guy Fawkes and welcoming the new year that light up the night: impressive sights can be found across the globe for all manner of occasions, be them long-standing traditions or record-breaking attempts. From the world’s widest to the most patriotic, here are just a few eye-catching and colourful displays with which to illuminate your next break.
Nagaoka Fireworks, Japan
Summer sees thousands of fireworks prettily popping over Japan, as regions celebrate their prosperity and mark their history. Originally used to ward off evil spirits, fireworks are now ignited across the country to both brighten the season and commemorate the past. Nagaoka Fireworks are held over two nights on the banks of the Shinano River, and they include some of Japan’s largest shells. The displays last almost two hours and feature the festival’s signature Phoenix Shell, symbolising the area’s recovery after the 2004 Niigata Earthquake. The record-breaking finale stretches for a sweeping two kilometres, making it the world’s widest display.
Honda Celebration of Light, Vancouver
Vancouver’s Honda Celebration of Light is the world’s largest and longest running offshore fireworks competition. As British Columbia’s biggest public event, it runs over three nights throughout July and August, attracting in the region of 400,000 spectators to each show. Three pyro companies get the chance to represent their countries and showcase what they can do, each presenting a 25-minute display that’s set to music. A panel of industry experts decide on the winner, judging the displays on their synchronisation, originality, size and overall artistry.
National Mall Fourth of July Celebration, Washington
Where better to be as the United States of America celebrates its freedom, than amongst its most iconic memorials and monuments in Washington D.C.’s National Mall? This impressive 17.5-minute display is launched above the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, with bursts of red, white and blue showering the US Capitol in the patriotic spectacle of the year. Spectators who’ve bagged a good spot can watch the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial light up as peonies pop and cakes crack, with over 200,000 dollars worth of pyro-technology filling the sky.
Bastille Day, Paris
The 14th of July marks Bastille Day in France, which commemorates the 1789 citizen-storm of the Bastille prison in Paris – a pivotal event that helped spark the French Revolution. The flash and fire continues to the present, with a day of celebrations which climax in a dazzling, pyrotechnic display that incorporates the iconic Eiffel Tower. A new theme is set each year for this 35-minute extravaganza, which costs around 700,000 euros and attracts over half a million spectators to the Champ de Mars and Trocadéro, to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ the day to a close.
Chinese National Day, Hong Kong
Victoria Harbour is the place to be on 1 October, Hong Kong’s National Day, which concludes with an epic 20-minute firework display. With a budget in excess of 600,000 pounds, this multicoloured feat packs a hefty punch, with over 20,000 fireworks propelled into the night sky thanks to around five tonnes of gunpowder. Captivating till the very end, the show runs through a series of considered scenes, inspired by Hong Kong’s history, culture and future plans, and incorporates Chinese characters and well-known symbols. For added drama, accompanying music is played through speakers on the waterfront, and spectators viewing it from further afield can tune into local radio stations to hear it in time with the show.
Rocket War, Greece
Rouketopolemos, or Rocket War, is a pyro tradition of the Greek Island of Chios, and it dates back to the 19th century. Two stories shroud its origins; an island rebellion when the Ottoman occupation confiscated the locals’ cannons, or a fake war to deter the Turkish so islanders could celebrate Easter in (relative) peace. Today, Easter on the island sees two Orthodox churches in opposing villages battling across the land, as parishioners fire homemade rockets in an effort to strike the other’s bell tower. A spectacular rain of fire over the island ensues. The winning village is the one who scores the most direct hits on the other’s church, and the tradition concludes with a friendly clean-up operation.
Palm Jumeirah and World Islands, Dubai
New Year’s Eve isn’t quite complete without fireworks, and they’re all the better to watch if they’re set to break the record for the world’s largest display. Cue Dubai, 2014, which did just that as the Palm Jumeirah and World Islands exploded into a riot of colour, smoke and synchronised explosions. Dubai held the top spot for just 11 months before being beaten by Søgne – a small Norwegian town that marked the 200th anniversary of its country’s constitution, with a celebration of epic proportions. Still, with around 1000 fireworks blasting off per second, Dubai’s yearly addition to the pyrotechnic scene is a dazzling one, indeed.
Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations, East Sussex
Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations take this peaceful town by storm, lighting up the streets for the biggest Fifth of November celebration in the world – and the last of its kind in the UK. Six Lewes Bonfire Societies celebrate the fall of Guy Fawkes across the town, each with their own processions, traditions and costumes. As a result of this, over 30 processions are seen intermingling along narrow streets, before parting ways to settle into their own bonfire sites and firework displays. A friendly rivalry between the organisations ensures parades are competitively impressive, with bonfires inched ever higher and firework displays going off with a definite bang.
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