When do people watch fireworks around the world?

Hi, this is Elliot, a developer at Datawrapper focusing on the data visualization part of the codebase. This week I have some charts for you on a rather explosive topic.

As a Brit, when I think about fireworks, I am reminded of chilly November evenings and big displays for the annual festival of Guy Fawkes Night (which foreigners may recognize from “V For Vendetta). On the other hand, my American partner would probably think instead of sweltering mid-summer days, watching Independence Day fireworks while eating barbecue.

Every country has different reasons to celebrate. We can get a window into these cultural differences through Google Trends, a tool that shows how interest in a search term changes over time. Rather than the total number of searches, figures are released as a relative index of 0–100, where 100 stands for the most popular in that time period. Google also provides topics, such as “fireworks,” which contain all related search terms — even those in other languages! (I’ve chosen to use data from 2019, since the past couple of years have been, er, unusual, to put it mildly.)

In the United Kingdom, search interest for fireworks ticks up through the summer, peaking around Diwali and Guy Fawkes Night. We also like to see the year out with a bang — hence the second peak at the end of the year.

Visualizing trend data from across the pond, we can see that search interest rises in the summer before shooting up the week of Independence Day. Like in the U.K., there’s an uptick at the end of the year, albeit quite a bit smaller.

On the other hand, judging by trends data, I assume my Datawrapper colleagues in Germany are watching fireworks fairly regularly throughout the year, with most displays taking place on Silvester, the equivalent of New Year’s Eve.

Google Trends data aren’t perfect and they’re downright useless in countries where Google is a minor player or restricted — for example, in mainland China, the birthplace of fireworks. However, over in Hong Kong, where Google is widely used, there are two spikes: one in December, and an even bigger one around Chinese New Year.

In Japan, another country well-known for its love of fireworks, there are fireworks festivals practically every weekend throughout the summer, and we can see that quite clearly in the data!

Comparing a bunch of regions — I’ve pulled data for a dozen below — we can see each has a distinctive pattern of search interest over time.

Google Trends are a fantastic resource for data journalism and can provide amazing, granular insights into what people are searching for. Just don’t try to read too deeply into why one number is bigger than the other — it is not the most accurate measure of popularity or sales figures out there.

Did I miss out where you live? If so, apologies — but if you’re curious, you can look it up over on the Google Trends website. The data is made freely available.

That’s all for this week. For those celebrating Guy Fawkes Day this weekend, enjoy the fireworks (safely!). Next Thursday, our senior backend developer Inga will be your captain for the Weekly Chart.