Have you ever watched the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan and thought to yourself: “Man, that looks like one hell of a party”? If your answer is yes, then you might want to check out the annual Yanshui Fireworks Festival in Taiwan every February.

The event has gained notoriety for not only shooting its fireworks into the sky, but also directly at the faces of people watching them. Although such interactivity makes this the next level in fireworks displays, this festival actually dates back nearly two centuries.

The centerpiece of the festival are called “beehives” these are large boxes holding dozens of bottle rockets. They are placed around certain parts of the festival ground and bombard well-equipped bystanders with fireworks from multiple angles.

Although it looks a bit like a terrorist raid on a Daft Punk convention, rather than avoiding the flaming projectiles, participants are actually trying to get hit. Unlike that bogus superstition of a bird pooping on you being good luck, this belief of getting hit in the face with a bottle rocket being good luck has quite a bit of history and maybe even a little legitimacy.

This fireworks festival began a little over 180 years ago in the Yanshui region of Nainan City, Taiwan. There are some different theories but it seems the most popular is that this custom began as a way to drive evil – in the form of a cholera epidemic – out of the area. The explosions were meant to call upon Saintly Emperor Guan (Yu), a deity based on an ancient hero of China during the Three Kingdom’s Period.

It must have done the trick because the epidemic ceased. Some scholars theorize that the simultaneous firing of several rockets both raised the air temperature and released small amounts of sulfur into the air effectively combating the disease.

Centuries later and even with all the advancements in helmet and glove technology people are still getting injured while trying to catch a bottle rocket in the head. It’s an eternal problem that has led some to call for the festival’s closing. So if you happen to be in the southern Taiwan area and want to take part in some reckless yet admittedly fun-looking mayhem get down to Yanshui about two weeks after the Chinese New Year.

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Video: YouTube – Farnworth, Ryan Gournic
Images: Wikipedia – Guy Nott, Randomizedimages