Interesting Facts of Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Happy New Year(元日)
By WANG Anshi
Tr. ZHAO Yanchun
Crack, crack, the firecracker now ends the year(爆竹声中一岁除);
A spring wind sends warmth to the herbal wine(春风送暖入屠苏).
A thousand households bask in the fresh sun(千门万户曈曈日);
The old plaque’s been replaced by a new sign(总把新桃换旧符).


This famous poem, Happy New Year, written by Wang Anshi in the Song Dynasty, describes the lively scene where the Chinese people bid farewell to the old and welcome the new. It also tells us that setting off firecrackers during the Chinese New Year has been a custom since then. Do you know why people set off firecrackers during the Chinese New Year?


The Origin of Firecrackers in Chinese New Year

In ancient Chinese legends, there was a kind of beast called Nian in Chinese, who lived in the deep sea all the year. However, it came out to roar and ate people and animals on the eve of the twelfth lunar month of every year. No one was able to subdue it. In order to avoid the beast Nian, people would kill pigs and sheep to piously worship the beast so that it couldn’t hurt people or animals any more.

Nian,Chinese New Year Firecrackers

But on one of the New Year’s Eve of the twelfth lunar month, people forgot to slaughter pigs and sheep to pay homage to Nian. When it came, it shouted loudly and wanted to eat people. In the situation, people had no choice but to close their own doors and climbed to the bamboo tower to hide. Nian went from one house to another house, foraging for food to eat. He howled with rage when seeing nothing to eat. At the same time, a nearby bamboo house caught fire, and the fire quickly spread with the sound of crackling. Hearing the sudden sound, it fled back to the forest.

The people hiding upstairs discovered this secret, thus they would cut down a lot of bamboo to burn. As soon as the bamboo crackled loudly, it scared him off.

The people hiding upstairs discovered this secret, and then they would cut down a lot of bamboo to burn on the eve of Chinese New Year every year. As soon as the bamboo crackled loudly, the beast was scared away. At the same time, people also found that it is afraid of the red so that people dyed peach wood board red, hanging on the each side of the gates.


The Development of the Firecrackers in Chinese New Year

It’s said that firecrackers originated in the Spring and Autumn Period, and the use of genuine bamboo ’firecrackers’ was popular in the Tang and Song Dynasties.

Li Tian,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Li Tian

At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, when the plague was everywhere, a man named Li Tian put saltpeter in a bamboo tube and set it on fire, which made it make more noise and stronger smoke. As a result, the miasma of the mountain was dispersed and the epidemic was stopped. This is the earliest prototype of the tinderbox firecracker.

Later, when gunpowder appeared, people filled the bamboo tube with saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal for burning, resulting in "firecracker". In the Song Dynasty, people began to generally use paper tubes and hemp stems wrapped with gunpowder and woven into strings to make firecrackers.


Thus, gunpowder firecrackers replaced the bamboo crackers of the past and gradually evolved into the firecrackers of today. By the Ming and Qing Dynasties, firecrackers were very popular in China. Especially to the end of the Qing Dynasty, when the wedding, funeral or festival people would set off firecrackers, in order to worship the gods and ancestors, and extend congratulations and ‘bless’ the family and all the best. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, there were more types of firecrackers. Time of firecrackers setting off is not limited to the early morning of the beginning of the year.

Double Sound Firecrackers,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Double Sound Firecrackers

As time goes by, the use of firecrackers is more and more extensive. The variety of firecrackers is quite rich, including three categories: "single sound", "double sound" and "whip". The big single-bang firecrackers are also called "Ma Lei Zi", and the double-bang firecrackers are also called "two kicks". Based on the double sound, the multi-sound firecrackers were developed.

Liuyang in Hunan, Foshan and Dongyao in Guangdong, Yichun and Pingxiang in Jiangxi and Wenzhou in Zhejiang are the famous "hometowns of fireworks" in China. The fireworks produced by them are not only sold well in China, but also exported to other countries and regions in the world.

Since then, every New Year’s Eve, every family set off firecrackers, and this custom has spread more and more widely, and has become the most solemn Chinese folk traditional custom.


The Significance of the Firecrackers Setting off in Chinese New Year

During the Spring Festival, the corresponding branch of the earth is Zi. In traditional Chinese culture, this is the time when Yang Qi is born, and Yin Qi is the heaviest. People are fond of Yang and avoid Yin because Yin Qi will breed all kinds of diseases. Thus people should increase Yang Qi to restrain Yin Qi. How to increase Yang Qi? The best way is to set off firecrackers because it is the thing that belongs to Yang. Thus, firecrackers were first set off to drive away ghosts. Later, firecrackers and paper were invented, and firecrackers replaced burning bamboo, and the red peach wood board became red couplets.

Fireworks,Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Fireworks production not only strive for loud voice, colorful fireworks, but also ensure safety, so the requirements for formula of gunpowder and production technology are very high. China's ancient working people have mastered these techniques very early, and have created a variety of wonderful changes in fireworks and firecrackers, adding luster to people's lives, which is the ancient Chinese working people's wisdom crystallization.

Setting off Firecrackers in Chinese New Year reflects a good wish of the Han nationality to dispel evil, avoid disaster and pray for good fortune. It is a traditional folk custom of the Han Nationality with a history of more than two thousand years.

The sound of firecrackers is a sign of bidding farewell to the old and welcoming the new, expressing people’s festive mood.


Notes for Setting off Firecrackers

Although setting off firecrackers is a traditional Chinese New Year custom, every year it causes injuries or fires. Therefore, people should strictly abide by the local law, and set off the firecrackers in the place where firecrackers are allowed to be set off. At the same time we should also pay attention to the following points.

Setting off Firecrackers,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Setting off Firecrackers

Children should set off firecrackers under the supervision of their parents. Parents should pay attention that firecrackers are not suitable for children of too young age, while older children also should set off under the supervision of elders to prevent accidents. Some children are afraid of the sound of firecrackers, so parent should hold the children away from the sound source when setting off firecrackers, preventing the explosion of firecrackers from scaring children.

Stay away from explosive materials. People should be away from explosive items when setting off firecrackers, such as firewood, straw, gas canisters and so on. The consequence will be extremely serious once the accident occurs. When setting off fireworks, people should be far away as possible, and should cover their ears with their hands.

Firecrackers in the Sky,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Firecrackers in the Sky

Place properly before lighting off firecrackers. When setting off firecrackers, they should be hung high or placed in a safe place. At the same time pay attention to whether there are people around. If there are people around, do not set off it. For it is easy to burn and explode in a short time. We should not hold the firecrackers by hand when setting off them, otherwise the consequences is unbearable. Thus firecrackers are usually lit with a stick of incense, rarely lit with a lighter and match. Special care should be taken when we use open flames.

After the firecrackers are lit, you should not approach immediately. It is appropriate to walk closer to the area where the firecrackers are being set off and checking the situation 15 minutes later.

Choose and buy the firecrackers produced by regular manufacturers. When purchasing products, we should select qualified products produced by regular factories. In setting off firecrackers, we should be strictly in accordance with the discharge rules on the instructions.


The Taboo of Setting off Firecrackers

  • Firecrackers should not be placed in fragile containers

Do not put the firecrackers in the fragile container. If the firecracker is put in the fragile container, it is likely to explode and some pieces may splash into someone's face, eyes, resulting in a serious safety accident.

Red Firecrackers,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Red Firecrackers
  • Firecrackers should not be dropped on dry wood

It is very likely that the explosion of the firecracker will cause the wood catch fire when it is thrown into the dry wood after being set off.

  • Don’t touch dummy firecrackers

Among the firecrackers set off by people, there must be a few “dummy firecrackers“ (firecrackers that do not explode) . Don’t let children pick them up. Because some dummy firecrackers are just fuze that burn too slowly and often explode when a child goes to pick them up.


Influence of Setting off Firecrackers in Chinese New Year Today

  • Environmental Pollution

Firecrackers are mostly made of chemicals. After being set off, the chemicals will penetrate into the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere through the circulation in the biosphere, and pollute the water, soil and air, even causing haze weather. Permeating toxic substances through people’s mining of the earth will eventually enter the human body, deteriorating people’s living environment.

  • Noise Hazards

Setting off firecrackers will not only cause air pollution, but also produce noise pollution. The noise made by setting off firecrackers has a great influence on our physiology and psychology. Not only dose it damage your hearing, but it also damages your cardiovascular system. It affects your nervous system and makes you irritable. It also affects your sleep, causing fatigue and physical harm.

  • The Benefits of Firecrackers in Chinese New Year Today

It can enhance the festive atmosphere, and arouse people’s positive mood. Red firecrackers set off all over the ground represent joy, happiness and auspiciousness. Red makes people moderately nervous, stay focused, and get ready for the New Year. When people set off firecrackers, the momentum can give people a smooth sensual enjoyment. Modern people have too much pressure in work and study, which can be released to a certain extent by setting off firecrackers to relieve daily pressure. Setting off firecrackers in Chinese New Year could carry forward the traditional customs of the Chinese nation, and protect the unique customs of our own nation, and add vitality to the great garden of world culture.

Chinese New Year,Chinese New Year Firecrackers
Chinese New Year

Question & Answer
1 Question
Asked by Tim Seattle | 07/21/2021 17:55 Reply
Does every family in China lit the firecrackers on new years eve now?
Is that allow?
0 Answer
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