It takes only a moment for a roman candle to launch into the air and explode in a burst of dazzling colours and patriotism.

That's right, patriotism.

The intrinsic connection between national pride and fireworks is so strong that some cities waive bylaws for Canada's top patriotic holidays and fireworks stores report making half of their annual sales in the week leading up to Canada Day.

"They just go hand in hand," said Joe Raskin, owner of Victory Fireworks.

"A lot of different cultures celebrate different holidays with fireworks. For whatever reason, Canada Day and the Fourth of July have always been traditionally marked with fireworks."

What better way to mark Canada's 144th birthday than by blasting pyrotechnics into the air and watching them explode in a sparkling extravaganza?

From Ontario Place and Ashbridges Bay on the edge of Lake Ontario to the City of Vaughan and beyond, an artillery of fireworks will be launched after sunset on Friday, in an spectacle of civic pride.

And while sanctioned events are ready to go in every corner of the Toronto area, families, neighbours and a few bands of roaming friends will still come together to hold their own shows – creating a series of guerilla fireworks displays that, when combined, will create a blanket of bright lights across the city skyline.

Consider them the standalone stars between the great constellations.

Rastin says his store Victory Fireworks does about 50 per cent of its annual business in the week leading up to Canada Day; half of all the fireworks they sell are purchased with Canada Day celebrations in mind.

"Canada Day and Victoria Day are our two big holidays, but Canada Day is growing by leaps and bounds every year," he told

"People plan on doing a big barbecue and street party when you can do the fireworks; that's why you see it on Canada Day. It gets the neighbourhood together."

Toronto city bylaws waive the need for a fireworks permit on Canada Day and Victoria Day, letting residents host their own shows as long as they are on private property.

Have fun, stay safe

But take caution if you choose to hold your own mid-city show. Fireworks are not toys, and many of them can pack a real punch.

"Personal fireworks displays should only be done on personal residences," said Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell. "You don't want them to be near buildings or trees – it has to be a safe distance away. And the people watching should be a safe distance away as well."

Powell says people should always purchase fireworks from a reliable source and have an adult use them according to the directions.

While children make the best audiences, they also make the worst show conductors (and not just because their tiny hands can carry so few fireworks). Keep children a safe distance from where they are being lit.

Powell said he has seen personal fire displays end badly in recent years, with personal burns and even property damage.

"We have seen fireworks fired directly at other people. They have fired them into dwellings, and those dwellings have been set on fire. They are not toys. People like to pretend they are completely safe; they are a pyrotechnic. They burn very hot. If they are misused they could explode inside a property."

Toronto Fire Services recommends leaving the fireworks to the professionals, suggesting thrill-seeking families attend one of the scores of massive fireworks displays being held on the big night.

Shows by pros

North York's Mel Lastman Square will offer a free concert starting at 8 p.m., followed by a fireworks display shortly after 10 p.m. The City of Vaughan will hold its own show at Mackenzie Glen District Park, 220 Cranston Park Ave, after a concert by Juno Award-winner Jully Black.

If you prefer your flammables with a side order of waterfront, the Ontario Place Canada Day celebration may suit your style. A day rife with shows and entertainment will culminate with a fireworks extravaganza at 10:30 p.m.

Ontario Place is offering free admission throughout the year, including the Canada Day fireworks display.

The City of Toronto's Ashbridges Bay Park, on the waterfront near Coxwell Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard, hosted more than 120,000 people during last year's fireworks show. A similar number is expected to take it Friday's event.

A few other places to see Canada Day fireworks, approximate start times after dusk, between 9:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.:

  • Toronto's Ribfest, at Etobicoke's Centennial Park
  • Canada's Wonderland
  • Milliken Park, at McCowan Road and Steeles Avenue East
  • Amesbury Park, at Keele Street and Larence Avenue West
  • Stan Wadlow Park, at Woodbine and Cosburne Avenues

Other celebrations

Still, some people are not excited by exploding acts of patriotism, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't love their country. And that doesn't mean they should be forced to stay at home while the rest of us are cheering at the sky.

The Tragically Hip are headlining a sold out and uber-Canadian concert at Downsview Park on Friday, while Queen's Park will host a day of family entertainment, carnival games and face painting from noon until 5 p.m.

The Toronto Blue Jays will also host the Philadelphia Phillies at the Rogers Centre Friday afternoon, while Toronto FC will showdown with rival Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field.

Whatever you decide to do this Canada Day, be sure to have a blast.