Ever since the Chinese invented pyrotechnics some time before the seventh century, fireworks have been used to celebrate summer holidays and festivals all over the world. But fireworks sometimes scream and burst throughout the sky purely for the thrill of competition.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

In 1974, Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler added church bells, howitzer cannons, and fireworks to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” so that, as the composer said, “all hell could break loose.”

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, held annually at the Charles River Esplanade, is the nation’s premier Independence Day celebration. At night, the concert begins with a flyover, while the band plays the national anthem. As the “1812 Overture” is wrapping up, fireworks shoot up and fill the sky with color, ending the finale with a bang.


Tarragona, Spain

Tarragona International Fireworks Displays Competition

Silent astonishment on Miracle Beach often accompanies the impressive shows of six international pyrotechnic companies. The Tarragona fireworks competition, held the first week of July at Punta del Miracle, is perhaps the most impressive firework display in the Mediterranean area. A 16-member panel judges the fireworks—both aerial and aquatic—based on brightness and duration of colors, intensity, elegance, originality, and final crescendo. This year’s competition runs July 3–6.


Brno, Czech Republic

Ignis Brunensis

Latin for “Fire of Brno,” Ignis Brunensis is an international fireworks competition presented on Brno Dam, where the fireworks reflect off the water. Around 200,000 people come to watch each 22-minute show over the course of two weeks in May and June. Noncompetitive firework displays are also launched from Brno’s city center for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Pyrotechnic companies from Germany, Switzerland, Poland, and the Czech Republic compete this summer, May 24–June 16, sending fireworks streaking through the sky in sync with music on the local radio station.


Scheveningen, Netherlands

Scheveningen Vuurwerkfestival

In a little beach town near Den Haag, Netherlands, fireworks stream off of Van der Valk Pier every year in the third week of August (this year, it will take place August 15–17). Several countries vie for the Scheveningen Fireworks Trophy, the winner’s prize for the Vuurwerkfestival, or “firework festival.” This international festival is the highlight of the year for thousands of people in and around the Netherlands.

Locals and tourists visit the Dutch coast to watch the noisy and colorful displays of fire in the sky—two shows every evening for three days. Other light shows set the sky ablaze during July and August. Spectators can get a good seat and enjoy a bite at the cafés along Scheveningen Boulevard during summer nights.



Tondabayashi, Japan

Perfect Liberty Art of Fireworks in Tondabayashi

Firework festivals are iconic in Japan, and August 1 marks one of the biggest fireworks festivals in the world: PL Art of Fireworks in Tondabayashi. The festival, a summer tradition in the Kansai region, has been held since 1953 as a religious event for the Church of Perfect Liberty.

During the firework shows, around 20,000 shells are launched, including the gigantic Star Mine. But be careful: this spectacular finale’s rumblings sound like the end of the world is coming, and its streaking fires light up the entire neighborhood like it’s daytime.


Brasilia, Brazil

Dia da Independência

Brazil celebrates its Independence Day on September 7, or “Sete de Setembro.” Along with speeches, military exhibitions, concerts, and libations, the country celebrates with parades in the morning and fireworks in the evening. The largest celebrations take place in Brasilia, but big cities like Rio know how to put on a great party as well.

Brazilians line the streets with balloons, banners, and streamers as they fly their flags and sing songs. At night, the people crowd the streets and beaches to enjoy the impressive firework displays that celebrate the day Dom Pedro famously said, “By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free!”


—Madeleine Brown