Posts Tagged ‘lantern festival’

Spring festival 2010 – Year of the Metal Tiger

February 11, 2010

This coming Sunday marks Chinese New Year, or spring festival for 2010, which will last for 15 days until the next full moon arrives and the Lantern Festival begins. In addition to all the celebrations, fire-works, dancing dragons and delicious food, every Chinese person will age by one year, in what is the world’s biggest (and possibly most unknown) birthday party.

My current town of Box Hill has a huge Chinese population – which I have mentioned numerous times before as being one of the main reasons we chose to live there. Some of the main streets will be closed and the town centre promises to be full of interesting things to explore. While there will be masses of people, I expect copious amounts of fireworks, dragons and food – and basically cant wait to get up there and to take some photos.

Come midnight, the noise will be extreme as the locals make every effort to scare away the evil spirits and herald in the coming of the year of the Tiger – which in fact happens to be my year.

This year actually happens to be the year of the Metal Tiger – because while each year there is a different animal sign, there is also a cycle of 5 elements, each lasting for two years – those being fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Metal Tiger is a positive sign for good luck with money – and damned if I am not hoping something comes from that! It is also a symbol for power and authority, yet inflexibility and destruction.

Sometimes when I read about these festivals, and their associated celebrations – all very precise and practiced, I cannot help but feel that my own culture is lacking. Sure, we celebrate Christmas and Easter and the like, yet for most of us it’s just about giving and receiving presents, while eating a big meal with our families. What particularly amuses me about our own holiday ‘festivals’ is that most of us who celebrate them are not in fact religious in the least?

The Chinese festivals in particular are elaborate and interesting and reflect on a history which stretches back into the ancient. While it is of course not my own culture, I often feel envious, and when I walk by stalls decked with offerings and symbolic meanings, I can’t help but feel like an outsider – a feeling that I hate.

Towering inferno, Beijing style

February 10, 2009

As crowds watched, the 40 story Mandarin Oriental building burnt brightly in the night like some kind of massive candle. Thankfully un-occupied, the building was scheduled to be opened late last year but was delayed…and if you were one of the ones scheduled to move in, I’d be buying  a lotto ticket right about now. The night was coincidentally Lantern festival – celebrating the new Lunar year. People were allowed to set off fireworks until midnight and well….if you’ve got em, use em! Authorities are unsure what started the blaze – which burnt from the top down, but I would bet any amount of money that someone’s stray fireworks have hit something flammable – perhaps a nice tasty unprotected gas bottle, and the rest is history.

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

I have witnessed firsthand the way people in China set off fireworks. They do it with little to no consideration for the surrounding area. They set them off beside busy roadways, where smoke is cloaking the traffic, and debris falls on the cars. They do them in big crowds. In China, they just don’t think of safety. Grown adults are comparable to children in a lot of cases. Excitable and unthinking. Big boom first, oh, did i just burn that down? a distant second.

I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in a towering inferno in China. The lack of safety systems also applies to things such as evacuating. If that building was occupied, man, I dont even want to think what kind of deathtrap stampede there would have been to escape.

Let there be light!

February 9, 2009

Today in China is what is known as the Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the first Lunar month, the Lantern Festival represents the end of the Chinese New Year. Typically kids hit the street with their lanterns and in turn answer riddles hanging from others. It’s an enjoyable, beautiful little holiday, and well, who doesn’t like lanterns? Last year the day we arrived in China was lantern festival, unfortuantely we were still in ‘oh my god where are we!’ culture shock phase to experience it. One day!

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