Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese New Year 2010

Today marks the beginning of Spring Festival, the largest national celebration in China. It is also Chinese New Year's Day; China runs on the Lunar calendar, with the night before Chinese New Year's Day being called chú xī, or "Year-pass Eve." There is great depth and tradition to the Chinese New Year and it is celebrated throughout the country with great vigor and expectation for the coming year.

My team and I found ourselves in the best spot to take in much of the scene of the Chinese New Year's Eve, literally positioned thousands of feet above the capital city of Beijing as our flight from Chengdu, Sichuan, China came to its evening landing. Out the windows of our plane, we could see the blast of thousands of fireworks and bottle rockets. In the taxi ride on the way to the airport, we saw hundreds or citizens setting of fireworks next to and out of apartment buildings, parking lots, and business districts, all in the name of calling in the Year of the Tiger.

"Looks like they've learned a lot from last year," Jon said sarcastically as we drove through the city, in reference to the celebration that cost Beijing its newest television station, which was charred from a fireworks' explosion in the Chinese New Year celebration of 2009. A celebration was situated too close to the CCTV building, which eventually caught aflame when celebrants set off fireworks that went astray.

As it is, the volley of light and thunderous boom of the city recoiled around us. I loved the feeling of being welcomed back to our home city of Baoding with such a roaring party buzzing throughout the rooftops and city streets.

"It's like this in every city in every province in the nation, too!" we noted as we drove our taxi through Badoing on our way back to the school. Walking to find a taxi felt like we were literally in the middle of a war zone, what with not being able to speak peaceably to someone even 10 feet away due to the explosions going on around everywhere; just across the street from the train station, we saw three different fireworks displays of firecrackers and bottle rockets coming from the same alleyway between two different apartment buildings. The incredible display of greens and reds and yellows announced the New Year and the demise of the unfortunate soul who needs to wake up for work early the next day. Most people, as it is, celebrate New Years Day in the same way Americans celebrate Christmas Day: in their home cooking dumplings with their loved ones, all while setting off the occasional firework just to not lose touch with the Joneses.

"At least we're safe, away from most people and their celebrations once we get home," I postulated about our campus's strategic position North of the middle of Baoding, a mostly-secluded area. However, once we drifted away from the lights of the city, I saw the same lights of hundreds more celebrations coming from the smaller villages around the country side, celebrations spreading yolk on my theory that we would be spared from dealing with the all-night celebration. Then again, who would want that, anyway?

As we walked into our campus to the greetings of our doormen, we shouted loudly, "Ju ni xi nian qui le, peng you!" Happy New Year to you, indeed! Adorned in their stoic grays and greens, the security officers who we usually sheepishly wave and grin at when we wake them, confused and upset, from their slumber if we arrive as late as we did on this night seemed overjoyed that they had foreigners around with whom to ring in the new year (a ring in our collective ears, that is). "Looks like they didn't even want to miss the party!" I shouted, pointing to the remains of a 1,000-piece firecracker that was broken and blasted possibly minutes before, its insides still fuming from the scourge for which it was created: Chinese New Year, 2010.
Two pictures of Chinese New Year celebrations throughout China.
(pictures from: