A Grown-up Approach To Fireworks

How was your New Year’s Eve celebration? Did you miss the fireworks? Was it too quiet, too tame for you? Or did you find happiness – or relief – in welcoming 2013 in a somewhat more contemplative, gentler way?

My memories of New Year’s celebrations are like yours, if you grew up in the Islands. Explosions, pops, sizzles and smoke all day long. As it neared midnight, the noise level escalated until it became one loud, continuous roar. The smoke hung heavy, obscuring sight and stealing breath. Asthmatic? Tough luck. The respiratory-distressed among us disappeared, locked inside homes or crowding emergency rooms.

Some unlucky folks got their hands, faces, eyes blown up. Firefighters girded for a long, long, busy night.

No more.

It appears Hawaii’s 2-year-old law banning all but firecrackers is having the intended effect – a safer, saner New Year’s Eve.

Initial reports show there were six fireworks-related blazes, but that was down from 22 the year before, and 36 the year before that.


I have to admit to a twinge of nostalgia. As kids, we loved the noise, the danger and the hoopla. New Year’s Eve fireworks were just expected, like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I still remember wading through piles and piles of red paper on New Year’s Day, breathing in the residue of sulfur and thinking life was perfect.

And then I grew up.

I started to wonder who cleans up all that trash, and I worried about my asthmatic friends. I started to think about the damage to property and the loss of lives, and the maiming and burning of children and adults. I began to question the value of a tradition that had people spending wads of their hard-earned cash to buy a product that literally went up in smoke in a few short hours. Ask yourself, was the bang really worth all the bucks?

What an assault to the environment, to lives and to resources.

And this year we still had injuries. Four people were hurt handling illegal fireworks. One man was severely injured when he detonated a homemade device.

At some point people will get the message: We are starting new traditions to usher out the old and ring in the new. You may think these changes are boring, but somehow most of the world manages to get by without blowing things up. I’m pretty sure we can, too.

It was hard taking the tree down this year. I always put away the trappings of the holidays with a bit of regret. Who wants to go back to reality? Reality means no more holiday sweets. It means eating more salads, getting back to serious issues and catching up on all the work we missed when we took our Christmas break.

Reality in our household also means our son is going back to school. I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and think about that later.

Change is good. Growing up is good. I accept that. But they’re not always easy.