Musings of a fireworks Scrooge

June 30, 2008 | 58 comments

This Friday will mark what I now think of as the Semi-Annual Matthew 22:39 Challenge, where God uses the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve to test my ability to follow through on that whole “love your neighbor” thing by surrounding me with people who set off fireworks until the wee hours of the night. Yes, I live in a neighborhood where this is illegal. I’ve even tried to start the rumor that it’s now punishable by death (hmm…if I’m ever President…), yet the people around here seem to see that “law” as more of a “party-pooping suggestion.”

The world and I just can’t seem to get on the same page about fireworks.

I realize that this is probably a defect with my personality. I am missing the gene that makes any activities that involve leaving the house enjoyable: camping, outdoor sports, frolicking at the beach, standing in the middle of the street and setting off fireworks — these things are all mysteries to me. On the plus side, if I were to be an anthropologist I wouldn’t even have to travel anywhere. I could just wait until Friday, get out a notebook, and start documenting my observations:

The group includes men, women and children. They have willingly chosen to congregate outside despite the fact that their dwellings have air conditioners. They do not seem to notice the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes, or the honking cars that try to maneuver around their location in the middle of the street. All the men are holding tall brown bottles that contain a liquid that seems to be a sacred component of this ritual. It is customary for participants to feign awe and surprise, often including spontaneous exclamations of “Yee-HAW!” or “There ya go!”, at the popping noise that each of their fire sticks makes, despite the fact that the previous hundred did the exact same thing.

Speaking of which, I have considered holding a neighborhood-wide demonstration on Thursday in which I gather everyone and ignite one blackcat and one bottle rocket and assure them that the five hundred that they plan to set off on Friday will do the EXACT same thing. But, alas, I don’t think it would work. My neighbors seem to see in fireworks something I do not. My take is this:

click to enlarge

But evidently the world and I do not have the same cost/benefit analysis when it comes to fireworks.

I know, I am not only a nerd, but a Scrooge. I all but say, “Bah, humbug!” as I yank the curtains shut and walk around the house muttering about the cheer of my merrymaking neighbors outside.

I once suggested back on an old blog that I would take my neighbors’ unspoken rule that “it is acceptable to celebrate certain holidays with flashing lights and loud noises well into the middle of the night” by choosing my own holidays to set off my car alarm around 3:00am and see how much they enjoyed the festivities.

But perhaps, this year, I will turn to prayer instead. Maybe I will use my hours of comforting my children in the middle of the night as an opportunity to read some Scripture…Though I can’t promise that I won’t be secretly fantasizing about coming across a long-hidden secret message in one of Paul’s letters, going down in biblical scholarship history for discovering the “fireworks exception” to the command to love your neighbor.


  1. Jeana

    I love the chart. Too funny!

    And this post is eerily reminiscent of my attitude toward the end of October.

  2. Veronica @ Toddled Dredge

    I am sooooo with you. Absolutely.

    I will try to follow your example this year too.

  3. Matt G

    You forgot the other Pro: They’re shiny. In fact, they epitomize the American sensibilities of Shiny and Loud, hence why they are such a suitable symbol of our Nation’s birthday. πŸ˜‰

  4. Soul Pockets

    We just spent the weekend with family shooting off very big fire works. I do it for the kids. After the first three I am pretty much done. My neighbors will be doing the same thing. I live in the corner house so I am assuming that is why they choose to light their fireworks off right in front of my home.(I don’t have a better explanation) I do go out there and let the kids do some sparklers, then it is back inside where I turn up the T.V. to drown out the booms.

  5. Paul, just this guy, you know?

    I’m completely sympathetic. I woke up screaming this past Saturday night about 11:30, having just gotten to sleep a few minutes earlier, to the sound of a string of firecrackers going off almost under my bedroom window.

    When was 4th of July moved to the prior Saturday?

  6. SuburbanCorrespondent

    I used to have trouble loving our lawn-mowing company, as they would always show up just when the baby was sleeping.

  7. Sara

    LOL – I love your pro & con list! Too funny. πŸ™‚

  8. Anne Marie

    One more thing to like about living in the country, no fireworks unless we are the ones setting them off.

  9. Anna

    I suspect that “con” items 1 through 4, and 7 and 8, would be on many people’s “pro” side. πŸ˜‰

    On a more serious note, aside from prayer, you could remember that celebrating common festivals is a community-bonding experience. If you take the kids outside and join some of the earlier fireworks, maybe it will help with that whole community experience thing?

    My kids have always been scared by loud noises, so I was pretty surprised when they actually enjoyed the neighborhood fireworks last year. And we let them stay up about an hour or hour-and-a-half later than normal watching all of them, so that they were completely wiped out from all the fun and had no problem sleeping through the wee-hour bangs.

  10. Milehimama

    Start with Maccabees. The story of them huddled in the dark temple while battle rages around them is perfect for that setting!


  11. William Eunice

    Actually our neighbors spend big bucks on fireworks. We don’t have to drive down to the public displays which are increasingly havens for crime and disorder. We invite people over and enjoy the money other people spent. The displays are every bit as unreal.

  12. Jennifer F.

    you could remember that celebrating common festivals is a community-bonding experience. If you take the kids outside and join some of the earlier fireworks, maybe it will help with that whole community experience thing?

    I definitely plan to do that for the first couple of hours of the festivities. However, I’m not sure I’ll be as up for community bonding for the post-midnight fireworks. πŸ™‚

  13. Tara

    “Goes Boom”….nnnniiiccceeee! LOL!This sounds like it should be followed by phrases like…”here’s your sign”…and “you might be a redneck”…very cute!!

  14. Penny in VT

    I thought *I* was the only one who HATES fireworks!

    What a great post! So so funny, (and right, I might add)!

    The chart rocks πŸ™‚

  15. sarah patience brennan

    I’m completely with you! In my neighbourhood, the fireworks start a few days before Guy Fawkes (which is when we have them, as opposed to your Independence Day) and they go on for months afterwards. Some people obviously buy huge stockpiles and enjoy them on random nights through the summer until they eventually run out.

    The only thing worse in my opinion is loud thumping music or possibly teenagers next door playing basketball on their concrete driveway.

    Oh and I’m not only a great indoorswoman like yourself, but I can’t abide sending hundreds of dollars up in smoke, which is why I make my poor child sit inside and watch everyone else’s fireworks! (apart from her own sparklers, of course)

  16. Maggie

    Canada Day is tomorrow and I shudder to think what my neighbours will do to celebrate the Nation’s Birthday. No doubt with fireworks and copious amounts of beer and cigarettes.

    And yes, it’s quite illegal to set off fireworks within the city!

  17. Christine

    Just a thought on fireworks waking children – maybe a noise maker that night, after they fall asleep so they don’t hear the loud noises, and if you don’t have a noise maker – a radio’s static or a loud fan work well too, or a white noise loop from itunes.

  18. Tony Rossi

    I’m with you on the fireworks. Maybe it was all the “you’ll blow your finger off” stories I heard as a kid. I’m not huge on Halloween either since it seems to have become an excuse for teens to act like delinquents. But I digress. Here’s wishing you peace this Friday – or at least a good set of earplugs and a loud air conditioner.

  19. Jenny

    The chart is fantastic!

    Prayer seems like a preferable alternative to plotting random acts of violence against my neighbors, which is how I usually spend my middle of the night waking hours. I hope I can remember that this year.

  20. Christine

    We have neighbors who started testing their fireworks (a couple of times per week) in May!! I can’t stand it either, thought hubby and kids are much more sympathetic to the “ritual” as you call it. Love the chart.

  21. Jon Daley

    The fireworks only start a week early? That’s pretty good. This year has been much quieter than previous ones – last year I heard the cost for the displays on our street were $2000… They started this year on June 6th or so. But, there have only been a couple each day. (though as I type this, there were just a whole bunch in the back alley)

    The front neighbors are adults that seem to be mostly responsible – other than not caring about the trash on everyone’s cars and houses. The back guys are middle school kids who have to make it into a boasting event as well – ie. Answering such questions as: how long do I dare to stand over the firework after I light it. Can I time the igniting perfectly so that it goes off underneath a car when I throw it at them.

    How far can I kick a lighted firecracker, and will it make any marks on my shoe or the bush I kick it into…

    After watching the kids to at least have a witness if one of them died, it makes me rejoice in the front neighbors antics.

  22. Sarah L.

    I don’t even like the professional fireworks shows. Such a waste of money and they all look the same to me! I know, I know…

    My husband rather likes them, so maybe as the children get older he can be in charge of taking them to see the fireworks. I’ll just stay home and have a glass of wine and read a book.

  23. AmyDe

    As my hubby says “Stupid people do stupid things and You (meaning me) should just get over it.” But I’m with you – Bah Humbug!

  24. Jennifer

    Ha ha ha! I agree with you 100% (and then some) on this one!! My husband and I argue every year about this–he’s drools over boxes of fireworks and begs me to waste..errr SPEND…tons of money on them and I go on and on about how pointless and dangerous fireworks are. I think we’ll compromise as usual by going to a local festival and then watching the (way too loud) fireworks show from the car on our way home :o) Glad someone agrees :oD

  25. Ginkgo100

    As for your frightened children, you could let them actually go out and enjoy the fireworks with the neighbors so they learn there’s nothing to be scared of. Nothing at all, right up to the moment they blow their hands off.

    Scratch that, much to grisly. Keep the children innocent of fireworks. I’m with you: Down with fireworks! (Actually, most of them go up…)

    I was horrified when I moved to southeast Texas and discovered that the misery of neighbor-inflicted fireworks is doubled here. In the snowy land I came from, it’s much too cold for fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Everyone just gets snockered in front of the fireplace or huddles in a quilt to watch Dick Clark.

  26. Jamie (Ohbecareful!)

    In our neighborhood — where houses are close together and lots are small, therefore, not a great distance from the street — fireworks are legal. Not just bottle rockets and other small fireworks that whiz and spin in circles on the street before sputtering to a stop just a few inches from where they started. No, it’s legal to set off fireworks usually reserved for organized public displays, fireworks that sound like a cannon and explode in a glittering ball of fiery destruction over roof tops — while home owners look on with ooh’s and ahh’s.

    What I’m saying is that I’m a Fireworks Scrooge, too. I hear you.

  27. Soutenus

    Wow, can I relate! I just wrote a post on this very thing.

  28. Carrien

    Hate neighborhood fireworks. Except in Vancouver.

    We used to live on a point overlooking the harbor and every year they have and international competition called symphony of fire. The teams choreograph the fireworks like a ballet to go off in time to the music. We could tune our radio to the local station and listen to the simultaneous broadcast while standing at the local park looking over the harbor to watch the fireworks. The booming worked out as rhythmic accents to whatever orchestral score was playing.

    It was gorgeous. It also only lasted 45 minutes a night and was over by 10:30. We let our kids stay up to watch it.

  29. razzler

    I LOVE fireworks! I was terrified of them as a child, I would scream and scream. But I love them now. They’re so loud and sparkly!

    Ooh, shiny!

    But your chart was very funny. And I’m sympathetic to your plight in a “Ooh, I wish we had fireworks” sort of way.

  30. Tyler Dawn

    Amen darling, I don’t mind a few fireworks, but when they go on and on and on and ON! And continue for a week! I invariably live in a neighborhood with kids with unlimited cash and I had to listen to, oh, I think my husband called them M-80’s or something like that, real explosives!

    That’s the worst for me, that they are no longer confined to one night. Allowing kids to do this for days on end is just so rude and self-centered.

    I hope Austin is different, I hate having my dog barking all night long, but at least this year it falls on a weekend.

  31. 'becca

    Make sure to work in a prayer of gratitude that you don’t have a Starbucks behind your house that gets its dumpster emptied in the middle of the night (CLANG! CRASH!) by a truck that apparently drives in reverse at all times (BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!) three times a week all year long.

    See link behind my name for last year’s post of crankiness about fireworks.

  32. Ronnica

    I’ve never really understood the whole fireworks thing. I mean, I guess they can be pretty, but if I’ve seen one or two, that’s plenty.

  33. JoAnn

    We watch a city’s professional show from the front lawn of a very nice lady’s house. She invites people to use her lawn every year. Then we come home a try to sleep while the neighborhood lights illegal fireworks until 2am or later. The next morning we collect all of the firework remains off our roof and backyard. Every year, I expect to come home to our house burned to the ground or wake up to it being on fire.

  34. Darwin

    Jen, Jen, Jen…

    You just have to understand, the number one great thing about fireworks is that they blow up.

    Fire = fun

    Explosions = excellent

    This is a sacred knowledge which all men (or at least all those worth bothering about) have preserved ever since we brought the first smoldering log back to the cave all those eons ago only to have the cavewoman say, “What exactly do I want that dirty, smokey thing in my cave for? I give you plenty of good, healthy raw meat.”

    Sadly, things are so dry this year that I fear one can’t really indulge so much. But in general, what better way can there be to celebrate the declaration of independence than by defying all local government authority and using fireworks against local ordinance.

  35. Wade's World

    I too am a fireworks Scrooge. I must live in your neighborhood, because we obviously share neighbors πŸ™‚

    It always amazes me how people seem to confuse New Year’s Eve with the 4th of July. On New Year’s Eve you set off fireworks at midnight. If you do the same on the 4th of July, you have in effect saved your hundred dollar pyro display until July 5th. Way to go!! You have missed your nation’s birthday party. Whoo-hooo.

  36. Whimsy

    St. Paul was pretty feisty. I bet he’d like fireworks.

  37. Anonymous

    Amen, Darwin!!!! Happy Independence Day!

  38. Katie

    I’m a fellow fireworks scrooge. I think I’ll pray as well, if I’m kept up again this year.

  39. Capturing Today

    I join you on the firework scrooge bandwagon! Our neighbors do the same thing – I’m always so worried that a grass fire or house fire will get started, as this time of year we are almost always in drought conditions. They scare my babies and my dogs – I’ll join you in prayer that night!

  40. Laura

    I don’t usually join bandwagons, but since I’m already president of our local hate-the-fireworks-at-midnight-next-door league, I’m all about signing up.

    We also have had the neighbors testing out the fireworks this past week because now one night is just not enough. They are also the same neighbors that blast their rap music from their cars (while they sit INSIDE their house) and bounce basketballs outside my kids’ bedrooms after they’ve gone to bed.

    Fireworks? Booooo…Hiss….

  41. MHL

    Alas, my wife shares your opinion on fireworks. However, I have the male gene that gets us all excited over anything that involves fire and explosions. Right after we got married, I drug my wife with me to buy fireworks right before the 4th. As I was going on and on about how great they were going to be, the woman selling them asked, “So, do you two have kids?” My wife replied, “Just one” as she pointed at me.

  42. KitKat

    I totally agee! Glad that I am not the only firewroks scrooge out there!

  43. Martha

    Maybe having boys has already worn me down, but I read your chart and thought “Huh? Goes boom is the only pro? She left off ‘Is really shiny.'” Then again, no one is lighting them on the street outside my house (much to my sons’ disappointment.)

  44. Evelyn

    I have no use for firecrackers, the ones that make noise and nothing else. However, for a very reasonable price around here, we can get lots of fountains that quietly send up a lovely stream of color and sparkles. Oh, and Roman candles are quiet, too.

  45. Kelly

    My husband says that several of the items on your “cons” list should be on the “pros” side as “provides element of danger.”

  46. Joy of Frugal Living

    Very funny. πŸ™‚ I loved “Go boom.” I like fireworks that are real displays that you go to intentionally. Not noise in the middle of the night. This is our first year in this neighborhood, and we live across from a big field that would be a perfect spot for setting off fireworks in suburbia – we’ll see what happens.


  47. Kimberly

    Ummm…do you live in my neighborhood?!?! Ugh. I, too, am sick of fireworks. They are shot off all the time from June to, well, May. I am amazed at how much time and money my neighbors can waste on these things–year round. Of course, this is a particularly difficult week. My favorites were the six year old boys holding bottle rockets IN THEIR HANDS and firing them off at the cars that drove by. What fun. (I did call that one in, not that the officers arrived in time to do anything, but…)
    Prayer. I’ll try that. Bet I’ll have the opportunity to start tonight! πŸ™‚

  48. Maureen

    I love fireworks. I was kinda not in the mood for them yet, but then I watched an anime episode featuring sparklers on the beach, and revealing the Cool Cultural Fact that Japanese people have sparkler endurance/wish contests. (Whoever’s sparkler lasts the longest gets their wish.)

    Blessed with this new piece of info, I am now pumped to watch the pretty magnesium spark and glimmer and glow, casting its light over the ground and the surrounding people in exactly the way the animators didn’t quite manage to capture. (Although they did a bang up job with the sparklers themselves, catching that peculiar spiky look of the flames.)

    Also, Chesterton says it’s better to do it yourself than watch a big community display. Of course, he probably also would have thought it was better to make it yourself, but I trust we are allowed an exception for touchy things like gunpowder. πŸ™‚

    Still, there’s no denying the artistry that goes into the big professional jobs. Gandalf advocates this, of course, as does the fireworks maker from the anime Oh Edo Rocket. πŸ™‚

    But it is especially essential that any childlike experience be repeated over and over again in almost exactly the same way. If you think that once is enough, you’re acting way too much like an adult.

    You know… if you really don’t like fireworks in your neighborhood every year, why do you stick around in your neighborhood? Go to a soundproofed hotel, or camp out in the middle of nowhere. No point tormenting yourself.

  49. Tyler Dawn

    Why on earth should we stay in a hotel??

    Since my only real complaint is not that there are fireworks, but that they go on night after night for a week (which is rude and inconsiderate). I have a right to sleep, and so do my kids. Keep it to the 4th and no one has much room for argument, but if someone just keeps doing it at all hours for days and days they are just being mean.

    And I have never found a hotel with soundproofed rooms (and who is to say that someone staying there won’t have their kids firing them off in the parking lot?)….. and how are you even going to find on on a holiday weekend anyway? And having to foot the bill for a hotel for a couple of days is pretty extreme just so that parents can turn their kids loose with firecrackers in the middle of the night.

    What would be nice, and what is really called for, is just for neighbors to be respectful of each other, and confine this to the actual holiday.

  50. Lora W

    I agree with you whole heartedly. Home fireworks are dangerous and lame compared with the professional ones, unless you’re in Iceland for New Years Eve.

    They have a good excuse as it is dark 20 hours a day at that time of year. There are apparently no laws or restrictions. In fact, local fire departments sell firework to fundraisers! The country spends in excess of $15 million for New Years fireworks.

  51. MooBeeMa

    I couldn’t agree more!!

  52. Melanie @ This Ain't New York

    I am sitting here listening to the popping and watching the fancy colors from my neighbors’ yards while sitting in my AC. I think it is total heaven.

    But- you’d never catch me out there blowing off my own fingers. :>)

  53. Mina

    Completely agree with you, Jen! I love fireworks. Adore fireworks. They are some of my favorite things.

    That doesn’t mean I set them off on my own.

    They are dangerous, loud, and, did I mention DANGEROUS?

    Isn’t it better to watch them from the backyard or go somewhere where they are set off professionally? It’s a great thing to do with family and friends, and a nice way to celebrate the Fourth with neighbors.

    Here in California, where there are wildfires all year round, it seems, there are those crazies who are complaining about the ban on fireworks.

    This is despite the fires in Southern California earlier this year and the ones in Northern California last week.

    Seems selfish to me. I know those fires weren’t started by fireworks. But with the dry season longer and drier than ever (we are in a drought), why take the risk? It’s an issue of community rights vs. individual rights and the community wins in this particular case. IMHO.

  54. Skay

    I love the chart. Could not agree more.

    We were treated to loud booms until 2:00AM last night–drove my dog crazy.

  55. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    This makes me laugh every year, and it also makes me feel just a little less alone in my crankiness. :>) I also linked to it on my weekly roundup. Thanks!

  56. Anonymous

    You hit a nerve with this post! As a former acute care nurse, we dreaded July 4th and the injuries fireworks would bring into the ER -missing fingers, burns, blindness, etc. It is hard to come up with a good reason to do this…no one ever thinks it will happen to them or their kids! …so, a good opportunity to pray for those that are feeling lucky :)))
    Thanks for your great blog!

  57. Jules

    Ah, the time of year I have to feel somewhat unAmerican for believing the Independence Day celebrations should be contained to the Independence Day weekend, or at least to before 10 PM. I just had to find this post tonight as I listen to the loud bangs outside a full week before July 4th.

  58. Lenetta

    This is totally still one of my favorite posts. :>) Due to a late (for her) night last night at a family gathering, tonight I gave my kiddo a bath and a dose of benadryl then tucked her in bed well before the rockets’ red glare started up. So far, so good.


  1. 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 110) | Conversion Diary - [...] the neighborhood entrance and beating my neighbors with them when they’re out in the street setting off bottle rockets…

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