What are the consequences of suddenly legalizing fireworks sales in a largely rural society? Would the spectrum of ocular injuries caused by fireworks differ from those found in the Western world? This is the first study on ocular injuries caused by fireworks conducted in the Republic of South Africa. We analyzed the presenting features and prospectively followed up all patients who presented to the casualties served by our ophthalmic department over the New Year celebrations of 1996-1997. The sale of fireworks to the public had been deregulated the previous year. Ocular injuries caused by fireworks had not been reported before 1995. We found that ocular injuries caused by fireworks occurred mainly in young male patients. The injuries were usually unilateral and responded to treatment. This mirrors worldwide studies that show that it is children who are frequently harmed by fireworks injury. Two of our patients were blinded by their injuries. Our findings echo those found in Western countries where fireworks have not been restricted by law. We suggest that young boys, regardless of race, nationality, literacy, or social circumstances, are at risk for ocular injuries caused by fireworks. Countries planning to unban fireworks should aim their education program at this target group.