THE use of firecrackers are a traditional part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and although for many the holiday festivities would not be the same without them, death and injury have taken their toll over the years and several countries have restrictions on their use.
Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder that were burnt to create small explosions were once used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. In modern times, this method eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season.
They are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core.
As they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits.
The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations.
In Australia, firecrackers are a virtual no-no, not allowed anywhere
But over the years there are continued reported incidents annually of users of fireworks being blinded, losing body parts, or suffering other grievous injuries, especially during the Chinese New Year season. Hence, many governments and authorities eventually enacted laws against the use of firecrackers privately, primarily because of safety issues.
In mainland China as of 2008, most urban areas permit firecrackers. In the first three days of the New Year, it is a tradition that people compete with each other by playing with firecrackers. However, many urban areas banned them in the 1990s.
They were banned in Beijing’s urban districts from 1993 to 2005.In 2004, 37 people were killed in a stampede when four million gathered for a rumoured Lantern Festival firework display in nearby Miyun. Since the ban was lifted, the firecracker barrage has been tremendous.
In Taiwan since the beginning of 2008, firecrackers are banned in urban areas, but still allowed in rural areas, while in Vietnam since 1996 fireworks have been banned across the country because of their dangers.
In Hong Kong fireworks are banned for security reasons although the government put on a spectacular fireworks display in Victoria Harbour on the second day of the Chinese New Year for the public. Similar displays are also held in many other cities.
In Singapore a partial ban on firecrackers was imposed in March 1970 after a fire killed six people and injured 68. This was extended to a total ban in August 1972, after an explosion that killed two people and an attack on two police officers attempting to stop a group from letting off firecrackers. However, in 2003, the government allowed firecrackers to be set off during the festive season and at Chinese New Year they light up Chinatown, at the stroke of midnight on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
In Malaysia firecrackers are banned for the similar reasons as in Singapore although many Malaysians manage to smuggle them from Thailand to meet their private needs while in Indonesia firecrackers and fireworks are forbidden in public during the Chinese New Year, although there were some exceptions with them being legal in the capital Jakarta and Medan.
In 2007, New York City lifted its decade-old ban on firecrackers, allowing a display of 300,000 to be set off in Chinatown under the supervision of fire and police departments, while San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, the largest outside China, is accompanied by numerous firecrackers, both officially sanctioned and illicit.
In Australia fireworks are a virtual no-no, not permitted anywhere but the Northern Territory except when used by a licensed pyrotechnician who also needs a myriad of government, maritime and aviation approvals.