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.
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 colored 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.
People born in the year of the snake are believed to be thoughtful and stylish yet complex characters.