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Amazing Bonfires: The World's Biggest and Best

Everything you need to know about the world's oldest outdoor tradition

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Roasting marshmallows is just one of many bonfire traditions

No kick-ass outdoor celebration is complete without a good bonfire. The s'mores, sing-alongs and talks shared until the last embers extinguish are what summer is all about. But a bonfire isn't just a complement to good times. When done right, it can be one of the main attractions.

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Click here for incredible photos of bonfires.

While the stretch from Fourth of July to Labor Day—the unofficial start and end of summer—is an excellent time for bonfires, they've been popular since long before the US was even on the map. Bonfires span every season—in fact, for obvious reasons they're very popular in the colder months—and countries as diverse as Italy and India have created bonfire traditions and rituals. While some are simple and intimate, others are just plain over the top.

Click here to learn about bonfire traditions around the world.

If you're considering a bonfire at your next gathering, keep this in mind: While fun, they require great care. In 2006, more than 83 percent of forest fires were caused by human activities, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. These incidents not only take a huge economic toll (in 2012, wildfires caused more than $1 billion in damage in the United States alone), but can also be deadly. Wildfires, peat fires and controlled burns on farming lands kill 339,000 people worldwide annually. For these reasons, it’s imperative to know the proper techniques for lighting, controlling and extinguishing a bonfire.

Click here for interesting facts about bonfires.

With the help of our slideshow, you can avoid rookie (and dangerous) mistakes...and have some cool facts to share with your friends as you celebrate. For instance, do you know where the word bonfire comes from, or who holds the world record for the largest one? If you're ready to know the answers to these questions and more, click here.

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