Fireworks play an important role in many festivals throughout the world, even more so in a joyous festival like the Chinese Spring Festival. In fact, fireworks were actually invented in China! Why though, do the Chinese light up heaven and earth so vigorously during this particular festival?
There are the aesthetic and celebratory reasons, but there’s also a “practical” story behind these explosive “smoke flowers”, as they are known in Chinese.
Legend has it that in ancient times, a Nian (four-legged monster; the legends vary a lot on its appearance) would come annually around the eve of the new year to the village (some say it was called “Peach-Blossom Village”) and ransack it in search of food, eating whatever it could get its paws on. The villagers were terrified of this beast and would hide in the mountains for safety.
One year, just before the Nian’s expected arrival, an old man came to the village and told a certain woman he knew how to scare the nian away; he asked for a place to stay in return. The woman told him that he was foolish to try to stay in the village when the nian’s arrival was imminent, as she didn’t believe him, and urged him to join her and the other villagers to accompany them into the mountains to hide. He refused, and they left without him.
The Nian came, but the old man was prepared. He had posted red banners and lanterns on the doorposts of the woman’s home, which startled the beast, as it was afraid of the color red. It was also quite afraid of loud noises, and the man set off some firecrackers that he had set up around the area. The beast was terrified and ran away.
When the villagers returned from hiding, they were amazed to find the village still intact. Each year after that, they have put up red banners on their doors and lit fireworks to keep the monster at bay.
~Christian Eilers (dauntlessjaunter.com); italics and red lines are mine.
Well, now that you’ve read through that info dump, here’s a piece of trivia to top it off: “nian” is also the Chinese pronunciation of the character “year”. So, in essence, the Chinese custom of scaring away Nian the monster can also mean scaring away the old year! Don’t get it? Well, the Chinese language is full of homophones and puns…
Anyway, back to our fireworks. To celebrate the Lunar New Year, I’ll be giving out packets of
angpow pixels in the form of pictures for you all to ogle at. The theme? Fireworks, of course! They may be Japanese hanabi (fireworks), but I hope they cheer you up just the same as Chinese yenpao! Like the colourful but fleeting sparks of light, I hope the pictures help you understand the joy behind our festivities. Till the next post, light em’ up like there’s no tomorrow!
As always, if you want the source of any of those pics, give me a yell through the comments. I’d be happy to tell you. No guarantees for every one of them though, most sites keep bad records…
Remarks, counter-arguments and alternative viewpoints-I’d love to hear what you think of this post, no matter how brief. And don’t worry, I’ll work hard to answer within 24 hours. =) Apologies in advance if I don’t. XD