In the Han Dynasty (206–220 BC) firecrackers were made by roasting bamboo to produce the loud sound (known as "bian pao") that was intended to frighten evil spirits. In the Northern and Southern Dynasties (AD 420–581) the firecrackers were used not only used to dispel evil but also to pray for happiness and prosperity.
The discovery of gunpowder and the invention of the first true fireworks are traditionally credited to the Chinese, although India is also a likely source. Some scholars believe fireworks were developed in the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581–907), but others believe there were no fireworks until the Northern Song Dynasty (10th century).
America's earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to the United States. Fireworks and black powder were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War. The very first celebrations of Independence Day were in 1777. In 1789, George Washington's inauguration was also accompanied by a fireworks display.
In Western Europe the use of fireworks by the general public is usually restricted to a few hours after midnight on New Year's eve.