As 2016 Halloween comes, we are ringing the way it’s done in the Divine Land—with the deafening boom of firecrackers that can purge the evil as a divine weapon.
The tradition began in Bronze Age China, in a quiet little village. But every New Year’s Eve, a ghastly beast would crawl out of from the depths of the local lake and terrorize the townsfolk. It ate people, destroyed houses, carried away livestock. So every year, before the terrifying hour arrived, the townspeople would run for the hills with their children and whatever belongings they could carry.
But one year, a mysterious old man showed up at this town. Though he was dressed in rags, he had a calm, wise demeanor and a twinkling eye. The villagers begged him to run for his life, but he only smiled and said he had a plan. As everyone rushed off in a panic, this man observed quietly.
The next morning, everyone, young and old, returned cautiously to survey the damage. To their surprise, they found none. What they found was the old man, stepping out of a house, dressed head-to-toe in red robes. He had scared the beast off with a magical weapon bestowed from the heavens—the firecracker. The beast would never return. People had peace again.
From that year on, Chinese people have marked every new year with firecrackers. Across every town, every front door is hung with a string or two. The men of each family wait, with matches in hand, for the exact moment the new year arrives. Then the firecrackers are lit all at once in a resounding peal.
(For reference, one single Chinese firecracker registers 160 decibels—louder than a jet taking off six feet in front of you. Makes the Times Square Ball Drop seems tame doesn’t it?)
As the flame crackles and races up the fuses, sending red paper into the air, all the people rejoice for a fresh start—and an evil monster forever eliminated.
To this day, Chinese people still refer to New Year’s Eve as “Eliminating the Beast.” We remember the origin of this tradition, and that to begin anew, we must bid good riddance to negativity.
What beasts will you eliminate this year? Share in the comments!
Shop the Yun Boutique Firecracker earring here.
Produced and edited by Christine Lin. Researched by Ariel Tian.
In China, hair sticks have been worn as early as the Shang dynasty, and strict rules surrounded who could and couldn’t wear them.
Is there any more full of mystery and feminine allure than the moon? When the Chinese think of the moon, a particular legend comes to mind.