July 4th fireworks: 5 fun things to know

Story highlights

  • Fireworks are not allowed on carry-on or checked luggage in the U.S.
  • Violators face up to $ 175,000 in fines

(CNN)As night skies hiss and crack with fireworks on July Fourth, millions of Americans will gather to gaze at the grand explosions illuminating the skies.

They will fall in love all over again with the bright colors shooting into the night, the loud booms and the thrilling choreography that goes into it.
And some will secretly wonder: Did the United States start the custom of fiery sky displays to mark major milestones? And with such fanfare, it must host the largest fireworks in the world? The answers are no and no, but we'll get to that.
Here are five interesting things to know about fireworks:

God bless China. And Italy

Though fireworks are a favorite U.S. pastime, they did not originate here. As many other innovations we still enjoy, the credit goes to China.
The invention of gunpowder more than a thousand years ago is generally attributed to the Chinese, who formed the first firecrackers by packing explosives into bamboo sticks and tossing them into a fire, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, a top fireworks industry trade group.
Some believed the loud bang chased away evil spirits, and used the explosives during births, deaths and weddings. Their popularity later expanded to Europe, especially Italy, which took it upon itself to improve on the fireworks and give them the ability to go airborne. Italian settlers brought their passion to the United States, where they used fireworks to celebrate the holidays, leaving their new hosts mesmerized. There was no stopping it from there.

John Adams would approve

When the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence, John Adams had in mind a celebration to mark that day (which, by the way, was July 2, not July 4) as loudly and gloriously as possible.
In a July 3, 1776, letter to his wife, Abigail, the man who would become the second U.S. president exulted:
"It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more," he wrote in the letter, which is kept by the Massachusetts Historical Society.
A year later, fireworks exploded during the Independence Day celebrations. Now more fireworks go off on July Fourth than any other national celebration.

Largest fireworks display was ... not in the U.S.

While Americans are known for rocking their red, white and blue with pride, the largest fireworks display happened in Sogne, Norway, where up to 540,382 devices were ignited in a 1½-hour show last November.
And when it comes to New Year's festivities, Dubai carries the honor of the largest fireworks display on that day. It ushered in 2014 by firing 479,651 shells of fireworks.

No, you can't fly with them

If you carry fireworks aboard a plane in the United States, it will cost you. Fireworks are prohibited in carry-on or checked luggage because they can ignite during flight, the FAA says. That means they should not be mailed as air packages, either. Violators face years in prison and up to $175,000 in fines.

More money, more explosions

And speaking of money, the fireworks industry has continued to grow, even through rocky years in the economy.
"Consumer fireworks revenues have climbed steadily from $600 million in 2006, to $695 million in 2014," said the American Pyrotechnics Association, the industry trade group. They are expected to increase further this year.
Experts urge caution this year. With high temperatures, wicked weather and wildfires across the country, there are more warnings than usual posted about fireworks safety.
In addition to harming themselves, people are also in danger of lighting up entire neighborhoods in areas experiencing dry weather.