AskDefine | Define firecracker

Dictionary Definition

firecracker n : firework consisting of a small explosive charge and fuse in a heavy paper casing [syn: cracker, banger]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A firework consisting of a string of bangers linked by a fuse designed to emit a series of loud bangs when lit. Traditionally used in Chinese celebrations (eg Chinese New Year) to scare off ghosts and bad spirits and to bring good luck.


a firework

Extensive Definition

Novelty noise makers

The "party popper" is a plastic tube with a small explosive charge wrapped around a fuse which when pulled causes a loud bang and ejects streamers or confetti. The "snapper" is a few grains of sand covered in AgONC (impact-sensitive silver fulminate) held inside a bit of tissue. When thrown on the ground the AgONC reacts to the impact causing a small bang. In general Novelty Noise Makers are not true firecrackers/fireworks because of the lack of danger or flame, and are legal in many places where fireworks and firecrackers are illegal.

Firecracker brands, packs and labels

Early (pre-1920s) Chinese firecrackers (AKA Mandarin firecrackers) were typically 1/2-inch to 2-inches long, and approximately 1/4-inch in diameter, and were charged with black powder. Mandarin crackers produced a less loud, duller thud when they exploded, compared to modern flash light crackers (which utilize a different explosive composition known as flash powder). Mandarin crackers produced a dimmer, less brilliant flash when they exploded also. Individual Mandarin crackers were most often braided into "strings" of varying lengths, which, when set afire, would explode in rapid sequence. Generally, the strings (sometimes containing as many as several thousand crackers) would be hung from an overhead line or high hook before being ignited. Most Mandarin crackers were coloured all red and did not generally have designs or logos decorating their exterior surface (AKA a "shell wraps"). Occasionally a few yellow and green Mandarin crackers were created and would be braided into the predominantly all red strings, to symbolized the emperor and the ruling class, while the numerous red crackers symbolized the common man.
Once flash powder, which produces a significantly sharper and brighter bang, replaced black powder as a firecracker's explosive charge (in approx. 1924) manufacturers began competing to gain the purchasing loyalty of the consuming public (i.e., mainly boys 8-16 years of age). Chinese manufacturers used American pop culture images for their labels including Tarzan, rocket ships, cowboys, and King Kong (with pink wings). Literally thousands of brands were created during the flash light cracker's heyday period from the 1920s through the early 1970s. Only a small percentage of brands lasted more than a year or two. Nowadays, collectors actively seek out examples of the various labels which contained the brand name and image associated with that brand.
Until very recently (i.e., mid 1980s) firecracker production was a low-tech process. They were entirely handmade, beginning with the operation of rolling thin tubes. Once the firecracker tubes were rolled by hand (most commonly from newspaper) and labelled, and then filled with powder, their ends were crimped and fuses inserted... all by hand. These finished firecrackers were usually braided into "strings" and sold in packs which came in many sizes... from the very small (called "penny packs" containing as few as 4 to 6 firecrackers) to the most common size packs (containing 16 and 20 crackers per pack), to larger packs (containing 24, 30, 32, 40, 50, 60, 72, 90, 100 and 120 firecrackers), to huge "belts" and "rolls" (firecracker packages which contained strings of several hundred to several thousand crackers each). Firecracker packages were typically wrapped in colourful and translucent glassine paper, as well as clear cellophane. Glassine was the most popular, however.
The final packaging operation involved applying a branded pack label on each and every pack and then bundling quantities of finished packs into larger wholesale lots called "bricks" which contained an average of 80 packs each (varying according to the size of the packs being bundled. For example, packs of 32 crackers might only have 40 packs to the brick, compared to packs of 16 or 20 which would have 80 packs to the brick.


Some fireworks enthusiasts like to collect firecrackers or firecracker labels. Below is a scale to grade the condition of firecrackers, as this is an important factor used in determining their level of collectability.

Condition-Grading Scale (G/S)

  • 10 (Mint) Factory fresh condition, looks as if just made
  • 9 (Excellent) Close to Mint, with possible minor flaws or wear
  • 8 (Very Good) Minor flaws and wear with possible fading
  • 7 (Good) Acceptable but with noticeable flaws, wear or fading
  • 6 (Fair) Acceptable only as a representation, has distracting flaws, wear, fading
  • 5 (Poor) Unacceptable Condition with extreme flaws, wear or fading
(Flaws may include: Tears, rips, holes, missing pieces, water damaged, powder damaged, price or writing on label, factory stained or blurred graphics, crooked & offset labels, taped, repaired, etc.)


  • Class 1 (Pre-1950) "Made in China" is printed on the pack or label. No cautions or warnings will appear. Some Class 1 Packs and Labels may say "Made in Hong Kong" or "Made in Canton".
  • Class 2 (1950-1954) "Made in Macau" is now printed on the pack or label. Still no cautions or warnings will appear on the Pack or Label. Some Class 2 Packs and Labels may say "Made in Portuguese Macau".
  • Class 3 (1955-1968) "Made in Macau" again is printed on these packs and labels They are distinguished by a small box with the words "ICC" or "ICC Class C" on them. Once again no cautions or warnings.
  • Class 4 (1969-1972) "Made in Macau" once again is printed plus the "ICC" or "ICC Class C" designation on them but it will also have the words "Caution: Explosive" with the warning; "Lay on Ground, Light fuse get away. Use under Adult Supervision"
  • Class 5 (1973-1976) "DOT Class C" Common Fireworks is now printed on the Pack or label also with the "Caution: Explosive" etc. Warning on them. Class 5 may say "Made or Repacked in Macau" but usually "Made In China" .
  • Class 6 (1977-1994) Similar to Class 5 "DOT Class C" with the addition of the words "Contains less than 50mg. Flash Powder". It also has the "Caution: Explosive" etc.. Warning. Class 6 will have "Made in China" printed on them.
  • Class 7 (1995-present) These firecrackers are those currently being made today. Packs and labels of this class have the words "UN 0336 1.4G Consumer Fireworks" Now "Warning: Explosive" etc.. appears, again "Made in China".
There are a few exceptions to the aforementioned guidelines, some Firecrackers in class 5, 6, & 7 may say "Made in China" like Class 1, but have the cautions/warnings, etc. Firecrackers larger than 1 1/2", or made for other countries may not conform to the above guidelines).
firecracker in Catalan: Petard
firecracker in Danish: Kanonslag
firecracker in German: Böller
firecracker in Spanish: Petardo (pirotecnia)
firecracker in French: Pétard
firecracker in Hungarian: Petárda
firecracker in Malay (macrolanguage): Mercun
firecracker in Dutch: Rotje
firecracker in Japanese: 爆竹
firecracker in Norwegian: Kinaputt
firecracker in Polish: Petarda
firecracker in Portuguese: Panchão
firecracker in Russian: Бомбочка
firecracker in Slovenian: Petarda
firecracker in Swedish: Smällare
firecracker in Vietnamese: Bánh pháo
firecracker in Chinese: 鞭炮

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Klaxon, Roman candle, boiler factory, boiler room, bomb, bull-roarer, cap, catcall, cherry bomb, clack, clacker, clapper, cracker, cricket, flare, flowerpot, girandole, horn, ladyfinger, noisemaker, pinwheel, rattle, rattlebox, rocket, serpent, siren, skyrocket, snake, snapper, sparkler, squib, steam whistle, ticktack, torpedo, whistle, whizgig, whizzer
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