Today is Lantern Festival, the 15th day in the first lunar month and another one of China’s million holidays. Best of all, it marks the end of Spring Festival which means all the droning sounds of fireworks that reverberate through my bones can legally stop after tonight. Thank goodness. I’m tired of feeling my stomach turned inside out from sudden BOOM!s that explode in front, next to or behind me. Sure, fireworks are pretty. Pretty annoying. They’re nice from a distance, or on the 4th of July which happens only once a year. But these incessant explosions resonate through my neighborhood–and the entire country–and resemble sounds of what I imagine would be a war zone.
Fireworks are traditionally used in China to ward off evil spirits, but for a country that has been bombed in cruel quantity I’m surprised the explosions don’t cause a psychological fury among the older generations who lived through those years. Instead, it is probably more of a nuisance, or more likely they have drowned out the ruckus. As this is my first Spring Festival here, I’m still getting used to all the noise, but I can’t say I like it very much. The thunderous sounds startle me to the point where I feel a slight heart attack coming on. I don’t like thunder. I also don’t like fire, and fireworks cause fires all the time.
One guy was blinded, several homes caught on fire because sparks got in them (you can set off fireworks literally anywhere, like right outside my window), an outdoor market selling fireworks exploded. All shitty ways to start a new year. Hate to be Negative Nancy here people, but fireworks are dangerous. And they’re detrimental to the already hazardous air quality here. I’d like to live a little longer. No more fireworks, PLEASE!
Here are some photos I took in between my complaining. I have to admit it is pretty cool to see fireworks from where I’m sitting, but my sanity can only handle so much.
Yeah. Imagine hearing that every second of your day. For 2 weeks straight. Mmhm. That’s what I thought.
I’ve posted some videos so you can feel the agony my ears are going through but also see the admittedly beautiful views from my window and rooftop.
(Don’t make fun. I laugh like a moronic hyena. A doofus. I sound happy in these videos because I was excited to see fireworks up close and I’m easily excitable. Obviously that enthusiasm has since faded.)
(Don’t make fun. I yell for “mommy” in the following video. Yes, I admit it. I still call my mom mommy and my dad daddy. I’ve been doing it since I could speak, and therefore got used to it and it stuck. I’ll probably still be calling them mommy and daddy when I’m a mommy. Deal with it.)
(Those of you reading this blog freshly published probably can’t see the last video because it’s taking FOREVER to upload onto youtube. Check back in 2 hours!! Apologies.)
For the past 2 weeks I have been visiting Grandma He and paternal family in Chongqing to celebrate 春節 (Chūnjié), Spring Festival/Chinese New Year (Year of the Dragon!). This was my first Spring Festival, a 15-day celebration (1/15-2/6), in the motherland. In the States, this holiday meant little to me but huge potlucks with our Chinese family friends in Boston, an annual event that sadly diminished as I got older.
The spirit of Spring Festival is equivalent to the entire holiday season back home which explains why the spirit I was missing around Christmas was far but made up for. Red lanterns hung everywhere, businesses offered special 春節 discounts, train tickets sold out, a week off from work, traffic cleared up (AMAZING), bags packed and most everybody was back home with their families, and I with mine.
Spring Festival has a lot of traditions that I don’t think my family keeps to. But the ones we did maintain this year included eating a Reunion Dinner, cringing as we watched the annual Spring Festival Evening Broadcast (6 hours of flashy, cheesy music, dance, and comedy) on TV, exchanging red envelopes ($$$!), eating “rice dumplings” filled with black sesame (nom nom), and setting off fireworks (terrifying). I read in the China Daily that at least 70% Chinese people gain weight over this break, and according to my scale, this is accurate.
We did a whole lot of sitting around this holiday, but that’s part of the tradition: being at home. However, when I wasn’t at home learning how to knit socks with my grandma, stifling her dogs with my love and affection, munching on snacks, playing games on my phone, sniffling because of my cold, and freezing my buttocks off because there’s no indoor heating in the south, I was out and about with my parents, throwing ourselves in the mix of massive crowds. My uncle, a Chinese history professor turned businessman, took us to several awesome places I never knew existed including Dazu Mountain, Longxing Ancient Town, the former Communist Party headquarters in Chongqing, and Baigongguan (Kuomintang’s cruel prison for Communists in the 1940s). We even took a 2 hour train ride to Chengdu, the city with the best food–and pandas–in the world! Don’t you worry, I’ll write more about that trip in another post.
I’m back in Beijing now, 10 degrees colder outside but infinitely warmer and more comfortable indoors, and fireworks are still exploding (quite an annoyance). I have many, many more photos to show you but I’ll post them in installments to keep you comin’ back for more!! I will, however, leave you with this:
I was awoken by thunderous explosions outside my window setting off car alarms and heart attacks. That was 8:30 this morning. It is now 9:45 and they are still intermittently exploding. It wasn’t a terrorist attack, nor was it a revolution unleashing, but rather fireworks (not the pretty kind). Maybe there is a holiday I’m unaware of, like the pre-celebration of Chinese National Day on Oct. 1st? But at 8:30 on a Sunday morning?!?! On the 25th of September? Talk about disrespect… or maybe I’m just a late sleeper. Either way, I’d like to wake up and enjoy my breakfast of freshly wrapped wonton soup in peace, please, if that’s not too much to ask. Jeeeeeez.
I miss the days when I awoke to the yodeling of farmers riding around on their bicycles selling eggs and warm dough (“man tou”). As a child, I used to hate that too, but it definitely beats waking up hovered in my blanket, sweating and thinking for certain I was going to die. It is now 9:56 a.m. and my heart is still pounding, and there are still explosions going off in the distance. Good morning, China!