You might know about the Chinese tradition of setting off fireworks during the Lunar New Year. However with the heavy pollution it produces, policies came out banning fireworks. 

What are the policies about? And what is their result on this tradition in recent times? Let’s find out!

The Tradition Behind Fireworks

There is a legend about fireworks. In the past, a beast named Nian who always appeared on the night of New Year's Eve. It hurt people and damaged farm work, which made people worry a lot.

A drawing of NianOne year, Nian appeared at midnight as usual but was scared away by the red clothes that hung outside. When arriving at another place, it was scared away again by the lights. Then people realized that Nian was afraid of big sounds, red color and fire lights.

After that, people started to set off fireworks at the end of the year to scare away the Nian. This also has the meaning of scaring away bad things and welcoming fortunes home. 

Gradually, after hearing this story, the tradition of setting off fireworks for the Lunar New Year was born.

Bans of Fireworks

The process of setting off fireworks produces thick smoke, which increases the levels of PM2.5 in the air. This is bad for the environment. 

Firework Pollutions

Around 2015, the policy of banning fireworks on Lunar New Year was introduced in order to improve air quality. This was around the time when air pollution was the heaviest in China. 

But what will happen to the tradition if fireworks are banned? Well, there are other ways to still enjoy this that are being used and tested because of the ban.

Novel Ways of Setting off Fireworks

People were not eager to accept the fact that thousands of years of tradition of setting off fireworks was banned. So new ways of setting off “fireworks” appeared to replace the old fireworks.

  1. 1 Balloons

    There is a special machine made with a string of balloons. People can pull the line out and the machine will puncture the balloons. This produces similar sounds as firework sounds.

    Balloon Fireworks

    Since there’s also a tradition of setting off fireworks on wedding anniversaries, this balloon machine is also used quite often at weddings.

    However the balloon machine is not quite convenient. Firstly, it takes time to inflate balloons. Secondly, a great amount of balloons are needed for even a short time of “setting off."

    Besides, a long string of balloons also needs a large space, which cannot be accomplished at home.

    But fortunately most kids love balloons a lot, so the role of inflating balloons can fall onto them.

  2. 2 Electronic Fireworks

    There are some electronic fireworks born after the policies too. They are designed in different shapes such as Chinese knitting or to look like real fireworks.

    Different Types of Electronic FireworksThe electronic fireworks are usually small and can be hung on the wall at home as decorations. Once you push the button, the electronic fireworks start to produce sounds with red lights on. They mime the sounds and colors of the real fireworks.

    Since the electronic firework is small, portable and beautiful, it is the most popular choice among the firework replacements. 

    Also, as long as you have batteries, the electronic firework can be used every year, which saves money as well.

  3. 3 Whips

    Nowadays, a lot of people are interested in playing with the whip as a hobby. The sounds from the whip hitting the ground are very similar to that from fireworks. This is why many people who are good at it would consider the whip as a replacement for fireworks.

    Playing Whip

    However playing whip is dangerous since it can cause a lot of pain if it hits people. So the whip is not a quite popular habit. Its rarity and the possible danger make this replacement last in the popularity ranking.

From the above examples, we know that most firework replacements focus more on the sound imitation. Most processes of producing lights need fire, which can cause pollution and fail the goal to protect the air

So sadly, even these options do not yet fulfill the whole firework experience.

Even though fireworks are banned, we can still have new ways to continue the traditions. So we ought to give them a try right? Fireworks may stop, but good wishes from them never stop!


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Xinyi Wang

Xinyi is a student majoring in Economics at the College of William & Mary. She enjoys her spare time happily and tries to share relaxing things in Chinese ways with you all.
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