CHINA-RELIGION-CULTURE-HOLIDAY

Sparks Fly As Chinese Villagers 'Eat' Flowers for the New Year

This local tradition in eastern China is a site to behold.

Villagers in eastern China gathered for an extended Lunar New Year celebration on Thursday with the annual "eating flowers" ceremony in the rural town of Xiaohu. Hoping to cleanse themselves of evil spirits, bare-chested men showered in fountains of incandescent sparks in a spectacular display of fire and light.

Villages across the coastal Fujian province take part in the annual affair, as the region is home to a number of colorful celebrations linked to ancient customs. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images Villages across the coastal Fujian province take part in the annual affair, as the region is home to a number of colorful celebrations linked to ancient customs. The ceremony begins when village elders select eight local men to take part in the ritual. The chosen men then dress as ancient deities and pray in the temple for the Buddha to protect them. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images The ceremony begins when village elders select eight local men to take part in the ritual. The chosen men then dress as ancient deities and pray in the temple for the Buddha to protect them. Allowing themselves to be “possessed” by the gods, the men work themselves into a trance by chanting and blowing horns. They are then escorted to a courtyard where the light show takes place. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images Allowing themselves to be “possessed” by the gods, the men work themselves into a trance by chanting and blowing horns. They are then escorted to a courtyard where the light show takes place. The bare-chested men then lean into bright displays of fountain fireworks for up to 10 seconds as hundreds of people look on. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images The bare-chested men then lean into bright displays of fountain fireworks for up to 10 seconds as hundreds of people look on. Opening their mouths to the fireworks, they pretend to “eat” the sparks, thus giving it the name “eating flowers.&quot; JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images Opening their mouths to the fireworks, they pretend to “eat” the sparks, thus giving it the name “eating flowers." Some participants even twist and turn their bodies to expose more of themselves to the sparks, thus burning away more evil. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images Some participants even twist and turn their bodies to expose more of themselves to the sparks, thus burning away more evil. One selected villager said he felt no pain during the ceremony, <a href="https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/03/08/pictures-bare-chested-chinese-villagers-eat-sparks-lunar-new-year-spectacle/"target="_blank">telling reporters</a>, &quot;This is not a performance. It is a very serious ritual. We hope by doing this, we can pray for the safety of all families in the village.&quot; JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images One selected villager said he felt no pain during the ceremony, telling reporters, "This is not a performance. It is a very serious ritual. We hope by doing this, we can pray for the safety of all families in the village."