Chinese New Year Firecrackers & Fireworks: Custom or Pollution?

A Chinese man bikes over a street covered in the red dregs of used firecrackers.

Chinese business owners light firecrackers to ring in the first day of opening for business in the new year, hoping it will bring them good luck.

From NetEase:

Business owners throughout the country set off firecrackers hoping for a good year

January 29th, the first day of work and 7th day of the new year following the Spring Festival long holiday, business owners and shop owners one after another lit fireworks and firecrackers when opening their doors for business in hopes of good fortune in the new year.

That day, Wuhan deployed around 20,000 sanitation workers to sweep up firecracker litter. According to the city management bureau statistics, from 8-10 in the morning, 840 tons of “fireworks for opening the door on business in the new year” were detonated.

Chinese business and store owners setting off fireworks and firecrackers on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year.

Jinan city in Shandong province, on the first day of work following the Spring Festival long holiday, many work units and companies lit fireworks in accordance with traditional customs for good luck.

Chinese people setting off fireworks for good fortune on the 7th day of the Lunar New Year.

Jinhua city in Zhejiang province, firecrackers being set off for luck in front of several businesses.

Exploding firecrackers in China during Chinese New Year celebrations.

Several work units and companies in Dalian set off firecrackers for luck on the street in front of their homes.

Long lines of firecrackers being set off by Chinese business owners on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year hoping it will bring them good luck.

January 29th on the 7th day of the new year, the first day of work following the Spring Festival long holiday, several Wuhan business and store owners one after another lite fireworks and firecrackers for an auspicious new year.

Boxes of fireworks and long strings of firecrackers in front of a Chinese company.

A Shanxi province Taiyuan business owner lights firecrackers in front of his door. Photo: CNS Wei Liang.

Smoke from firecrackers being set off on the first day of opening for business following Spring Festival.

Jinan city of Shandong province, on the first day of work after the Spring Festival long holiday, many work units and companies lit firecrackers in front of their doors in accordance with tradition for good luck.

A Chinese sanitation worker sweeps up the red husks of used firecrackers that cover the streets of China during Chinese New Year.

Dalian sanitation workers cleaning up firecracker fragments.

A Chinese sanitation worker walking amongst a sea of red firecracker litter that covers the streets of China during Chinese New Year.

Dalian sanitation workers cleaning up firecracker fragments.

Chinese women cleaning up the streets of used fireworks and firecrackers.

Shanxi Taiyuan, many business-owners set off firecrackers for good luck, while female sanitation workers sweep up firecracker litter.

A Chinese man bikes over a street covered in the red dregs of used firecrackers.

A passerby rides past the leftover fragments of firecrackers in front of a financial company on Wenhua Road in Zaozhuang city of Shandong province.

A fire burns over the litter of firecrackers.

Hubei Wuhan, burning husks of spent firecrackers.

A Chinese man with a broom tries to smother smoldering firecracker shells.

Renmin Road in Dalian’s Zhongshan district, several businesses set off firecrackers for good fortune.

A Chinese scavenger collects the cardboard boxes of used fireworks for recycling.

Zhejiang province Hangzhou, a scavenger collects the large boxes of spent fireworks.

Comments from NetEase:

网易杭州主管 [网易浙江省杭州市网友]:

Did that guy in the third photograph set off an atom bomb?

lbg224522 [网易广西南宁市网友]:

The same festive welcoming of the new year in the past used only 1/10th of the fireworks and firecrackers used today, is polluting the air considered progress?

cqsi0621 [网易重庆市网友]:

Poor sanitation workers…

网易江苏省徐州市网友: (responding to above)

Selfish, how about at least giving the ayi [female sanitation workers] a red envelope…

邵嘉琪 [网易吉林省网友]: (responding to cqsi0621)

Actually, these paper husks/shells can be sold for quite a lot of money!

不要智商低得让我看不起 [网易广西南宁市网友]:

Right hand condemning those polluting the air. Left hand holding a lighter lighting the most polluting firecracker. A smile on one’s face.

街市花园 [网易四川省遂宁市网友]:

Seeing the ground covered with firecrackers, all I see is pollution.

哄哥高唱 [网易北美地区网友]: (responding to above)

Not only is it polluting the air, these poisonous chemical substances will enter surface and underground water, directly polluting water sources.

暂时在这个地球流浪 [网易黑龙江省大庆市网友]:

Doing business without considering how to better operate and instead counting on these superstitious things, might as well just shut down the business.

信念重要吗 [网易山西省太原市网友]:

Taiyan Yingze Street Xinjian Road intersection. Don’t know if it was PICC or what company, but they were even more crazy with the firecrackers.

xinlinxue520 [网易英国网友]:

It’s okay to light fireworks, but you guys should clean up your own trash afterward.

lixin100 [网易山西省太原市网友]:

Strongly demand that [firecrackers] be prohibited next year, this year’s air pollution was truly unbearable!

网易湖北省武汉市网友: (responding to above)

Not only is it air pollution, it’s also the noise, and the fire hazard, fuck.

陶自高[ 网易上海市网友]:

These fireworks and firecrackers are most revealing of the nature of Chinese people. Always congratulating oneself, completely disregarding others, and definitely not sharing with others. No matter from what perspective, all of this is inferior culture. But just like what Lu Xun said, a tumor has grown on our heads, and instead of thinking of how to excise it, we do everything we can to prove how good this tumor is.

后羿之徒 [网易江苏省网友]: (responding to above)

Indeed it is a cultural weakness/inferiority. Holidays have not involved firecrackers for a long time now. Yet Spring Festival is full of firecracker noise without regard for day or night, making it unable for me to sleep soundly. I personally oppose this kind of culture!!!

网易是我家 [网易北京市网友]: (responding to above)

What weakness/inferiority? Are you not Chinese? Are you a Westerner? Japanese? What nationality do you want to be? Problem is even if you become another nationality, they may not even recognize/accept you [as one of their own]. Not identifying yourself with your own people’s culture, you living is just taking up space.

shendemuyu [网易辽宁省沈阳市网友]: (responding to above)

Don’t make it more than it is, weakness is weakness and has nothing to do with this. Does not lighting firecrackers suddenly mean one is without weakness?

美人天下环球旅游 [网易北京市网友]: (responding to above)

A bunch of idiots, I’m rendered speechless by you guys.

太阳侠客 [网易四川省成都市网友]: (responding to above)

Take a look! This is the face of our country’s people!

What do you think?

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • ChairmanMeow

    Interesting article!

  • E Puff

    this will get the economy jumping. people will be hired to clean it up. they in turn will spend their money locally, thus creating wealth for business owners, who might hire more people to work at the stores to accomodate the new patrons. the new employees will have money to spend, and then the cycle continues until everyone is gainfully employed in a booming economy. sometimes bad is good.

    • hooots

      Until this ‘booming economy’ crumbles because everyone dies of lung cancer and pollution.

      “Of course the business cycle will continue and spin into unbridled happiness for everyone!!!! **Cough***!”

    • Please tell this is sarcasm…..

      The title of the article spelled it out, the photos proved it and most of the chinese commenters agreed with it.

      The pollution created by this custom is intolerable. Where do you think all that smoke goes? It just disappears into an infinite void in the sky?? Here’s something to think about: We’re breathing the accumulated pollution of 200 years… All the way from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until today. All of that pollution doesn’t just drift away someplace safe…

      That’s ONLY considering the air pollution. What about the toxins that seep into the soil making it uninhabitable for plant life? What about the toxins that get into the water cycle and poison EVERYONE’s cup of tea?

      This isn’t about some teenager who found an M80 firecracker in the garage and wants to blow something up. This is about over a BILLION people creating MASSIVE, CONCENTRATED pollution for a whole week each year.

  • dim mak

    It’s custom AND pollution

    In HK we have these “modified” firecrackers that uses less materials, make less noise etc, because it’s crowded as fuck in some areas. Failing that, just clean up after yourselves.

    • mr. weiner

      “Failing that, just clean up after yourselves.”..This is China we’re talking about here bro.

      • jin

        in europe no1 cleans up their own mess after new year -.-
        do the americunts clean up their own mess ?

        • DRaY

          the fireworks that i would buy in the states, are not as messy as the ones they sell in China….

        • mr. weiner

          Wouldn’t know mate I’m not an Americunt, I’m Australian, they banned fireworks [for sale to the public] 30 years ago. My point was Chinese [in the article]aren’t famouse for cleaning up after themselves, although I’m sure HK [where Dim Mak was talking about] have a better public cleaning network and probably don’t use anywhere near the amount shown in Shandong.

          • Chad

            Aussies aren’t famous for being clean either lol

        • dan danger

          some one jealous of Americans again. sigh, so sorry you were born in an inferior country, but name calling won’t help much. you are who you are loser.

  • Somethin Somethin

    100% employment. Perfect consumer cycle. You make a bomb, blow it up thus destroying it, requiring the building of another, while at the same time creating a job for someone to clean up the mess. Still I just wish the bastards would light em off between 10 and 12 so the rest of us can get some fucken sleep.

  • Cardaver

    I just wish it wouldn’t carry on for so long, I’ve seriously been having trouble sleeping for the past two weeks

  • Dat Ankle

    Think of it this ways: more jobs are now available.

  • Read-Tess

    I wonder how many people are injured/maimed/killed due to playing with these silly toys?
    Ah well, Homo sapiens are odd creatures.

    But still when I think of that little boy with most of his hand blown off, I can’t help but think that some adult supervision was lacking and in the end was the key factor for this human to now have a diminished life in exchange for a few minutes thrills.

    c’est la vie….

    • GodsHammer

      All I can think is that next years firecrackers should be 3-4 times as big and be wrapped in marbles.

  • typingfromwork

    Plenty of traditional festivals in other countries end up with more mess than firecrakers, like that anual tomato throwing competition in Spain, so what’s wrong with this? You hire a few people to clean up, and the waste is mostly paper anyway so it’s biodegradable.

    Be proud of your traditions dipshits! God damn Chinese netizens are a self destructive lot. The “no fun allowed” brigade sure is out in force these days.

    • Nyancat

      did you not see all the smoke, not to mention the noise. It’s not like China has really good air quality in the first place.

    • Ray

      Tomato is biodegradable + organic, Paper and cardboard dyed red and chemically treated + the gunpowder ignition end products is waaaaaaay more of a mess…

  • Nyancat
  • GodsHammer

    This is BRILLIANT.
    “These fireworks and firecrackers are most revealing of the nature of Chinese people. Always congratulating oneself, completely disregarding others, and definitely not sharing with others. No matter from what perspective, all of this is inferior culture. But just like what Lu Xun said, a tumor has grown on our heads, and instead of thinking of how to excise it, we do everything we can to prove how good this tumor is.”

    He/She should be very careful about using LOGIC and REASON, lest he/she be ‘harmonized’.

    • Hongjian

      Citing Lu Xun wont get you harmonized, because this man was right and Mao’s cultural revolution and the CCP’s entire ideological foundation was based on the intellectual stream of which Lu Xun was one main proponent of: Chinese traditional culture is weak, silly, backwards, dirty, superstitious and plain shit, which has to be fixed by burning it, destroying it and replacing it with western imported communism and modernity combined with traditional legalist practices.

      Only now, after the “blessings” of unchecked capitalism annoyed the fuck out of the Chinese, they finally found out that Mao and Lu Xun were right all along.

      • Rick in China

        That’s the first time I’ve heard Russia being referred to as “western”…

        • Hongjian

          Erm… Marx is German, born in Trier.

          But I guess americunts really ARE that stupid.

          • handburglar

            I prefer you call us Amerikkkans or Amerikkkunts if you must.

      • Rick in China

        1) I’m not American. Thanks for showing your own idiocy through proving yourself once again to be a presumptuous dickhead.

        2) Marx is 100 yrs before Marxism-Maoism. Ideas evolve. Calling it imported from the 100 year old idea after it had served in practice in large scales which inspired people like Chen Duxiu, like the 1917 Russian Revolution, where Lenin and Trotsky made their own ‘realization’ of Marxism in actual practice, is disingenuous…or in your case probably just an ignorant attempt at a dig that falls flat.

        3) Beginnings of Chinese communism were inspired by the Russian revolutionaries, and principals largely brought over from there. That’s like saying Americans are just thieves of Greek ideology, which you probably would. As you obviously know, the two people you cited – Lu Xun and Mao — they wrote for Chen Duxiu’s paperi, and it’s well known his influence was largely because of the Russians.

        How this Russian-inspired communism shift equates to “western imported” is beyond me, but thanks for your butt-hurt response anyways.

        • Hongjian

          Ultimatively, Communism and Socialism are western ideologies, based on the concept of social liberation and equality through culture-defining revolutions, that was never ever existent in China. Earlier Chinese revolutions never attemted to alter the underlaying political and societal structure, hierarchy and culture of the heavenly mandate and confucianism, not even Sun’s revolution. So, the chinese socialist movements were pretty much imported from the political “west”, as seen by those German and French-studied CCP leaders who dominated in the end, as oppossed to those who were sent from the USSR.

          You western trashcans can try to deny your inherent guilt for creating the communist/socialist ideologies all you want, by shoving it into the shoes of Lenin and the Russians – But you will never manage it, since violent revolutions with the aim to establish “people’s democracies” and generally liberal systems will always be a purely western idea: As shown in the nation-building attempts past and present, your vicious invasions for the sake of regime-change, as well as your cancerous shit like financing violent bloody revolutions and upheavals in every regime and country that isnt thinking and governing like your bullshit.
          In short: the ideological imperialism which is inherent in the communist/socialist thinking (the goal of world revolution) is pretty much the ideologic child born out from typical cancerous, arrogant and universalist western thinking’s foundation (world democracy, “universal values”, human rights).

          Nice try. I give you that.

  • Peye

    Hearing aids will also be a big seller in the future if this custom if making noice continues.

    • Yes. China hasn’t been around for 5000 years. China doesn’t have customs that go back so far that Chinese have long stopped wondering what they mean.

      Safety glasses, car seats for kids and ear plugs are all part of the nanny-mentality that has popped up in the west. You can’t rock if it’s too loud, grandpa.

  • jeffli

    More mess by messy mess makers!
    They can not learn.

  • The Shadow Knows

    Reminds me of “Boom!” by P.O.D.

  • Brett Hunan

    I attended university in Jinan about 6 years back. Fucking idiots with fireworks. While on 1000 Buddha Mountain there was a wedding nearby. Heard tons of fireworks and then sirens. Some guy in the wedding party got his hand blown off or something.

    In hunan my fucking neighbors moved out and a couple moved in the following week. How about 2 weeks of fireworks every night at midnight. The first night I was sleeping and thought there was an earthquake. they set off the crackers INSIDE the apartment. good times

    • Of course they have to set the fireworks inside your own house. You didn’t expect them to “share” with you for free, did you?

  • [email protected]

    “Chinese New Year Firecrackers & Fireworks: Custom or Pollution?”

    Short answer – Yes and Yes.
    Long answer – Are you serious? Yes and Yes.

    Old habits die hard. This one has a pretty auspicious significance. It is just a pity it is bad for the air, creates tons of waste and is so bloody loud.

    Maybe they could make giant water balloons next year instead.

    They could pop really loud, so that would fulfill the ‘must be loud’ part, and they could be acidic, which would fulfill the ‘must be hazardous’ part, and they would of course leave rubber and sludge everywhere, so that would fulfill the ‘must create litter’ part.

    Then ultimately, with all three aspects fulfilled, the custom would still be undeniably Chinese and fireworks could become a thing of the past.

    Come on everyone, lets play Chinese balloons. BANG – Owww, my eyes/hands/lungs/skin/genes!! Happy New Year!

  • Xiongmao

    They should allow it for 2 or 3 days instead of the whole period of Spring Festival. It’s immensely noisy and annoying and there’s always a couple of morons who’ll burn some in the middle of the night, waking up our kids, all the dogs and everyone in the area. I don’t mind the festivities but it’s way out of hand these days. 4 days ago we even had a short drizzle in the evening resulting in everything being dyed red from the leftovers. And that’s not even mentioning the pollution. Let me finish off my rant with again shaking my head at Chinese parents. They supposedly love their kids OH so much but haven’t got any qualms handing over powerful fireworks to 7 year old’s, not to mention educating them on the stuff and/or supplying safety goggles and such is virtually unknown.

  • Ryo

    I’m glad I live in Guangzhou where fireworks is banned. Just goes to show that the rich actually don’t need “luck” to be wealthy. It’s the poor and uneducated that think lighting some firecrackers will magically bring business to their shitty place. How about you give better service? Or stop using sewer oil? Maybe clean up the place a little? Oh hey, how about serving better quality stuff? And how about not trying to rip off a customer a few turn and instead think about return business? How’s that sound? Probably too much work an less fun then firecrackers I suppose.

  • Bunny99

    Fireworks produce polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans (PCDD/F) and their precursors chlorinated benzenes and phenols when they burn(1).

    “UK studies also indicate that the atmospheric concentration of dioxins increases dramatically during the period of the 5th November ‘Bonfire Night’ celebrations with the estimated release of dioxins due to
    bonfires and fireworks being up to around 14% of total UK annual emissions.”(2).

    ” Long-term, low-level exposure of humans to dioxins and furans may lead to the impairment of the immune system, the impairment of the development of the nervous system, the endocrine system and the reproductive functions. Short-term, high-level exposure may result in skin lesions and altered liver function. Exposure of animals to dioxins has resulted in several types of cancer.

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies dioxins as a “known human carcinogen”. However, most of the evidence documenting the toxicity of dioxins and furans is based on studies of populations that have been exposed to high concentrations of dioxins either occupationally or through industrial accidents. There is insufficient evidence to prove that chronic low-level exposures to dioxins and furans causes cancer in humans. ”

    1. Fleischer O, Wichmann H, Lorenz W. Chemosphere. 1999 39(6): 925-32. Release of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans by setting off fireworks.

    2. Dioxins and Dioxin-like PCBs in the UK Environment
    Consultation Document. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government, Northern Ireland Department of the Environment). October 2002.

    3. WHO 2011. Health-care waste management: Fact sheet N°281.