Fireworks and firecrackers, known as Yanhua and Baozhu in Chinese, were originally made of real bamboo.
They were traditionally set off to frighten away ghosts and monsters so that the New Year would be free of them.
Legend has it that long ago there was a monster that terrorized people and animals at the end of the year. It was discovered that this animal was frightened of loud noises, bright lights, and the color red.
At midnight, on the last day of the old year, these things are used to chase away the monster until the next year.
You can hear or see fireworks and firecrackers everywhere, and this usually lasts for a few hours. Some people will continue to light them occasionally throughout the first half of the first lunar month.
Traditionally fireworks are a sign of getting rid of the old and welcoming the new. Today, firecrackers are used to add to the merry-making of the occasion.
(China.org.cn February 13, 2007)