When in Rome … you blow things up! At least, that's what we like to say. And what better to set off in Rome than a Roman candle?

Roman candles are a staple in fireworks displays around the world. If you haven't used one, now's your chance. Read on for everything you ever wanted to know how to light a roman candle, roman candle safety, and everything else about these classic fireworks.

What Are Roman Candles?

Roman candles are traditional tube-shaped fireworks that launch a series of exploding stars into the sky.

Wondering where the name came from? Some sources claim that Roman candles were named after a gruesome kind of torture from Ancient Rome. While that's up for debate, we know that Roman candles come from China — just like basically every other firework in history. Either way, they're a classic fixture in fireworks shows worldwide!

These beauties come in all different shapes and sizes and the larger the candle, the bigger the boom. Larger candles contain more stars, while smaller ones might only have one or two. The biggest candles use comet shells instead of stars. They also burn slowly, so you can still make a great show even if you only have a few on hand. 

How Do They Work?

Roman candles are loaded with alternating layers of delay powder, stars and lift charges. When you light the fuse, you set off a chain reaction that goes a little like this:

  1. Delay charge: Delay charges in Roman candles work one of two ways. In the first, the delay powder ignites, burning down the candle until it reaches the stars. The second uses clay and a super-long fuse instead of powder.
  2. Stars: The loosely packed stars — or shells — ignite, expanding the tube and triggering the lift charge.
  3. Lift charge: The lift charge explodes, popping the candle open and launching the stars into the sky.
  4. Lather, rinse, repeat: The flame continues to travel down the tube and the pattern continues until the candle burns up completely. 

How to Light Roman Candles

Roman candles are easy to use. All you need is a flat surface, some protective gear and something to light up with. You have several options for stabilizing the candle:

  • Stake it directly into the ground.
  • Use a Roman candle stand or mortar tube.
  • Place the end in a glass jar or container.
  • Use a fireworks launch pad.
  • Brace it with cinderblocks.

Once your candle is in place, it's go time! Point the top of the candle straight up, light the fuse and run to safety. Then sit back and enjoy the show! You can shoot your candles off one at a time or string a few together to fill the sky with sparkling stars. Mix and match effects, colors and firework types to create an unforgettable show.

Safety Tips — How to Use Roman Candles Like the Pros

The best pyrotechnicians take safety seriously, which is why they can put on such awesome displays. Here are some quick tips for keeping yourself — and your audience — safe:

  • Gear up: Wear protective gear, including gloves and eye protection, while lighting the fuse.
  • Solid ground is your best friend: Only light your candles when they're stabilized on the ground. Holding them in your hand is a bad idea. 
  • Keep your distance: Use an extended lighter or a punk to set the candles off — this makes it easier to keep a safe distance so you can focus on the show.
  • You don't have to get ready if you stay ready: Keep a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water with you, just in case.
  • Do your required reading: Always follow the instructions on the box! Each Roman candle is different, so even if you've used one before, you might have to follow new directions if you're trying out a new brand. 
  • Follow your local laws: Some states have outlawed the possession and use of Roman candles — check your local and state laws before lighting up!

Ready to Find Your Next Favorite Firework?

In case you couldn't tell, we're big fans of Roman candles at Red Apple® Fireworks. We've got loads of different candles to try, with all sorts of cool effects you won't forget. From mid-sky tails and dandelions to low-flying barrages of crackling color, we've got something for every pyrotechnician.

Try a sky show sampler kit to find your next fave, or check out the blog for the latest Red Apple® news. 

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