As many people know, Chinese love setting off firecrackers - especially extremely colourful ones at major festivals or events, such as the recent opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games here in Beijing. But how and why has it become so popular in China?
The tradition dates back more than 2,000 years. Some historical books say ”when hearing chickens crowing in the early morning of the first day of Chinese New Year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, everybody will get up and set off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits in their own yards.” At that time powder and paper was not invented yet. So people burnt bamboo sticks. An ancient but very true reflection of superstitious Chinese people wanting a peaceful life.
About 1,000 years later, alchemists found that saltpeter, sulfa and charcoal mixed together burnt and eventually exploded. Thus gunpowder was invented. People started to put it into bamboo sticks which made a bigger noise than before. By the Northern Song Dynasty, (around 960 AD) people were using paper to wrap the gunpowder up, making two or three crackers tied together. Very soon it became so popular that the tradition spread nationwide.
Nowadays, when Chinese New Year arrives, the whole family will set off huge firecrackers, praying for good luck for the whole year round. They are also used on other occasions such as weddings, funerals, ceremonies and other major events – like the Olympics!
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