Festivals of Light
Festivals to mark the onset of winter, and celebrated with bonfires are associated with many religions and cultures around the world. Thus the pre-Christian Celts, Saxons and Vikings had their Festival of Light, and the Hindu celebration of Divali in late October is of growing significance in the UK calendar of celebrations.
All Saints’ Day
Introduction of fireworks to Europe
The earliest recorded use of gunpowder in England, and probably the western world, is by the Franciscan monk Roger Bacon. He was born in Ilminster in Somerset in 1214 and lived, as a master of languages, maths, optics and alchemy to 1294. He recorded his experiments with a mixture which was very inadequate by today’s standards but was recognizable as gunpowder. His formula was very low in saltpeter because there was no natural source available, but it contained the other two essential ingredients: charcoal and sulfur.
In 1242 he wrote: “. . . if you light it you will get thunder and lightening if you know the trick”. Fireworks as such probably arrived in the 14th century, brought back from the East by Crusaders, and they rapidly became a form of international entertainment.
The first recorded fireworks in England were at the wedding of Henry VII in 1486. They became very popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and they were so much enjoyed by the Queen herself that she created a “Fire Master of England”. James II was so pleased with his coronation display that he knighted his firemaster.
Shakespeare mentions them in his plays and pyrotechnic effects were used in the productions. In fact, the mis-use of pyrotechnics was the cause of the fire which destroyed the original Globe Theatre.