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Chinese welcome Year of the Snake in style

Across the country, the Chinese New Year was welcomed with celebrations through the night. Firecrackers, traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits, were set off in the streets of Beijing. 

By Ben BlanchardReuters / February 9, 2013

Chinese artists perform the lion dance during the opening ceremony of the Spring Festival Temple Fair at Ditan Park (the Temple of Earth), in Beijing, February 9. The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, begins on February 10 and marks the start of the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac.

Jason Lee/Reuters

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Beijing

Chinese welcomed the arrival of the Year of the Snake with raucous celebrations on Saturday, setting off a cacophony of firecrackers in the streets and sending fireworks blazing into the sky to bring good fortune.

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Celebrations will carry on into the early hours of Sunday, officially the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Residents of Beijing braved freezing temperatures to let off brightly coloured fireworks, with clouds of smoke in the air, red wrappings from firecrackers covering streets and explosions rattling windows.

A plea by the government to set off fewer fireworks to help deal with Beijing's notorious air pollution seemed to fall on deaf ears.

"Every year we set off fireworks and this year will be no different," said Lao Guo, 45, a convenience store worker.

"People won't not set them off because of pollution. It's the custom."

Firecrackers are believed to scare off evil spirits and entice the god of wealth to people's doorsteps once New Year's Day arrives.

China's cosmopolitan business hub, Shanghai, saw similar scenes, though not everyone had reason for cheer.

"Business now is very weak. It's related to the financial crisis," said Chen Yongliang, who used to run a street stall. "The U.S. and other major countries have seen their economies slide and we've gone with them."

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