But choking pollution along the North China plain has tarnished Beijing's image, with episodes such as the 2013 "airpocalypse" making headlines around the world. Across China, the new found ability to monitor hourly air quality updates on cell phones has made people much more conscious of the quality of the air they breathe.
"To maintain good air quality and build a Beautiful Beijing together, we suggest you set off fewer fireworks or don't set them off at all. If the air pollution reaches the orange or red level, fireworks are forbidden. Thank you for your understanding, support and co-operation," read a message from the city government sent to millions of cell phones in the city. Fireworks could be heard sputtering in the chilly evening even as the message went out.
Millions of firecrackers, Roman Candles and skyrockets build up to a crescendo of bangs and roars at midnight on Lunar New Year's eve, which falls on Thursday this year. Pollution spiked well beyond hazardous levels and visibility dropped to nearly zero during a foggy New Year's eve in Beijing two years ago.
(Read more: China's smog threatens health of global coal projects)
Many Chinese cities forbade fireworks altogether in the 1990s, but dropped the prohibition after historic residential neighborhoods were bulldozed for massive urban development schemes, leaving concrete skyscrapers that are far less likely to catch fire.