Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve... Fireworks

Tonight is the night.  People all over the world will countdown to midnight, kiss someone and sing Auld Lang Syne.  Australia will be among the first in the world to celebrate New Years as the clock strikes midnight tonight.  Sydney New South Wales, will have one of the first fireworks displays of the year 2012 (link here for info).  There is a great deal of excitement hanging about.  There are many (some would say silly) Aussie's and tourists alike camping out in the harbour in order to stake out and hold a perfect viewing position.  I can't see why, but that's me. 

We have the Chinese to thank for the spectacle of fireworks.  They were the first known to "discover" the explosive properties of bamboo and use it in celebrations.  According to it is estimated that the first fireworks dates back to approximately 200 BC.  The story goes that dry fire fuel ran short and someone threw on a chunk or two of green bamboo (you don't put green wood on a fire, even I know that).  Because of the relatively unique way that bamboo grows there is a lot of air pockets and sap inside the trunks.  When it heats up, it makes a loud sound that could be described as a "BANG" and the light show in the fire is a sight to see.  The loud noise is obviously scary and the Chinese began to use pao chuk (bursting bamboo) to scare away evil spirits at celebrations such as New Years and weddings. 

Eventually fireworks as we know them today were developed with the use of gunpowder (another Chinese discovery/invention around 700AD.  The focus was on the loud noise made by the cannons to scare away evil spirits and, in warfare, to harm the enemy.  These days the emphasis is on the light show and millions of dollars is spent on the visual elements added to the rockets and the timing of the explosions to create an artistic display (more about this). 

Fireworks for the Sydney displays for 2009-2010 NYE celebrations cost in excess of $5 million.  I wonder how much it will cost this year.  I also wonder what "carbon footprint" is created by fireworks displays and the media circus surrounding them. 

On a lighter note, I wonder if they will ever invent silent fireworks?  The celebratory light show without the unnecessary noise and fright. 

:) M