Why are firecrackers used at Christmas in the South?: Information Roundup
In the northern states firecrackers and other fireworks are used almost exclusively on the Fourth of July; in the southern states they used almost exclusively at Christmas and New Year's time. There several reasons for this difference in practice. Firecrackers are believed to have originated in China, where they are used at social, military and religious functions as well as at births and funerals. Quiting the fourteenth century they were introduced into Italy, where they were used from the first on saints' days, Christmas and other religious festivals. This custom, which met with no opposition from the Catholic Church, spread to France, Spain and other Latin countries, where it still survives to some extent. The custom of shooting firecrackers on religious festivals was never common in England, although it is not likely that the Church of England, as originally constituted in the sixteenth century, would have objected to it seriously. The early English settlers in the southern states appear to have borrowed the practice from the Spanish and French inhabitants of a; the West Indies, Louisiana and Mexico. The fact that the Puritans of New England frowned on it while the Church of England did not object to it no doubt had much to do with establishing the custom in the South and preventing its introduction in the North. Both in England and in New England the Puritans regarded Christmas as a "Roman corruption of a heathen practice" and as a "human invention without warrant in Scripture." For a time in the seventeenth [page 82] century the observance of Christmas by feasting and refraining from work was forbidden by law in England and Massachusetts. To New Englanders shooting fireworks at Christmas time was unthinkable. The day had neither religious nor patriotic significance to them. In the North firecrackers and other fireworks were used on patriotic military occasions in Colonial times. On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife that Independence Day "ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations." After the Revolution firecrackers came to be used in the North chiefly on the Fourth of July, generally regard by northerners as the most important holiday on the calendar. In South, Christmas was regarded as a far more important holiday than the Fourth of July. Thomas Jefferson in his youth referred to Christmas as "the greatest day of mirth and jollity." From the beginning southerners looked upon the Fourth of July as a day for political oratory and observed but did not celebrate it. Since firecrackers were used at Christmas time it did not seem natural for southerners to use them on Independence Day. In his Autobiography David Crockett wrote: "I hunted on till Christmas, having supplied my family very well all along with wild meat, at which time my powder gave out; and I had none either to fire Christmas guns, which is very common in that country, or to hunt with." And again: "I still insisted, telling her we had no powder for Christmas, and, worse than all, we were out of meat." During the Civil War General "Stonewall" Jackson wrote to his wife: "The enemy are celebrating the 4th of July in Martinsburg, but we are not observing the day." Thus fire crackers became peculiarly associated with Christmas in the South, and Independence Day in the North. So many children were injured while shooting firecrackers that their use has been greatly restricted by local ordinances in both sections. Duties were levied on firecrackers from the Orient as early as 1859.