If you enjoyed reading about the origin of our favorite summertime treat, you’ll like this story about why we celebrate our independence with “bombs bursting in air!”

Backyard barbecues, parades with long-legged Uncle Sams, hot dog-eating contests … Americans know these events as traditional ways to celebrate Independence Day. Depending on the region, you might add in some local flair to mark the occasion (think boat parades and lobster races). But if there’s one tradition Americans across the 50 states look forward to on this historic anniversary, it’s the late-night fireworks celebrations. But why? Turns out, Americans have been setting off some form of pyrotechnics — from early monochrome sky bursts to modern, multicolor displays — since the very first Independence Day.

Here’s how the tradition got started.