Making your celebration go with a bang

Making your celebration go with a bang

It’s a birthday, Christmas, a special event. What’s a good way to make it go with a bang so that everyone can join in the celebrations? What better than a firework display? Year-round, they are on sale, the pyrotechnics ever more spectacular. And the most popular season is upon us now; First Diwali, followed by Guy Fawkes night, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

Diwali is a festival of lights, the triumph of good over evil, and fireworks are among the ways it’s celebrated. What it is not is a celebration of who can be the loudest. Thanksgiving is an American tradition to celebrate the harvest. Christmas and New Year are times of joy and looking to the future. Guy Fawkes night celebrates a failed plot where gunpowder wasn’t ignited!  None of them requires the sounds of war. Yet fireworks creating awe-inspiring patterns in the sky are inevitably followed by a crescendo of explosions, echoing off walls and hard surfaces. What purpose do the bangs serve? The impact is in the visuals. The blasts are unnecessary and irrelevant. But they do have an impact of their own. On creatures that associate noise with threat. Pets and wildlife cower at the sounds, seeking safety and to escape from the danger they hear and don’t understand.

And it’s not just one night. Diwali is five days. The remaining events seem to last interminably and well beyond the appointed days. Plus, the occasional wedding and birthday where it seems the bigger and louder the bang the better. For dogs, cats, birds – most living creatures – there is no respite.

What makes all this so difficult to understand is that we are supposedly an animal-loving nation. According to the PDSA, 52% of adults own a pet. In the UK, there are ten million pet dogs, eleven million pet cats and a million pet rabbits. Building and development schemes invariably include clauses protecting wildlife. Yet fireworks that inflict stress and trauma on animals continue without restriction. Where is the logic in that?

This is not an argument to ban fireworks – although there is an irony that roads are being closed to traffic to safeguard us all from vehicle particulates while fireworks are dropping far worse. According to Forbes, ‘Fireworks create highly toxic gases and pollutants that poison the air, the water and the soil, making them toxic to birds, wildlife, pets, livestock — and people.’ And there are alternatives that are environmentally sound. Although not from your local ‘All Year Round’ supplier.

There is also a raft of regulations on how and when fireworks can be used to safeguard us all – the Met Police list times and conditions, though these are seldom, if ever, enforced.

Yet in their guidance notes, even the Met writes, ‘Everyone should be able to enjoy fireworks safely, whether at an organised display or in their back garden.’ Quite where this human right to fireworks came from isn’t explained but, if the tradition of enjoying coloured lights in the sky is so embedded, does it have to be accompanied by a cacophony of explosions and banshee screams? Can we not admire them, with a gasp, an ‘ooh,’ and ‘aah’? Most public displays are accompanied by music anyway.

Or is the bang a feeble attempt at machismo, defiance against normal standards of behaviour, or just plain ignorance?

Meanwhile, for the next few months, pet owners will have animals cowering, trembling, uncontrollably defecating.

Everyone wants their celebrations to be a success. But do they have to go off with a bang?

Serene on the racetrack before retirement, hiding in the basement to escape fireworks. We’ve laid bedding on the concrete floor to offer some comfort.

RSPCA campaign against fireworks –


Author: Richard Smith

I'm a writer and storyteller and for much if my life produced sponsored films and commercials. Subjects were as varied as bananas in Cameroon, oil from the North Sea, fighting organised crime and caring for older people. Their aim was always to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials I worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

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