Posts Tagged ‘Year of the Ox’

All the fireworks in China!

January 28, 2009

Well the Year of the Ox is in full swing, may you have a good one! A prominent feature of any Chinese celebration is of course fireworks. The Chinese invented them back in the 12th Century as a natural extension of their gunpowder invention – a little thing that kinda changed the way the world fought each other. China is in fact the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks. Likely also the source of the most fireworks related accidents as we have previously mentioned!

I think most people love fireworks. They’re bright, colourful, loud and always present at festive activities such as New Years Eve. Most people would think of fireworks and think of having a good time. In China, it’s different. Fireworks are so commonplace that it’s a daily event. Seeing a fireworks display is no different than seeing a bus drive past – it happens all the time.

While we were in China for at least 6 months straight we experienced nightly fireworks. We couldn’t believe it. They weren’t the huge overly expensive type things you would see over Sydney Harbour at New Years, but moreso ‘kit’ fireworks. Our first night in China had us dragged out to a banquet and as we drove to the restaurant, in an almost surreal way, fireworks were going off over the street. What we couldn’t understand was no-one was actually paying them any attention.

The mess left after a fireworks display celebrating the opening of a small restaurant.

The mess left after a fireworks display celebrating the opening of a small restaurant.

It took us many months to actually see some being launched. We would always see them in the sky from distance, but never anyone actually setting them off. The Chinese set them off to mark so many occasions. Fireworks are a symbol of prosperity and good luck. If a new restaurant opens? Fireworks. If someone moves into a new house? Fireworks. Baby born? Fireworks. Particularly large sneeze? You guessed it, fireworks.

One night we were lucky enough to have dinner down the road from the school where we lived and see them setting up fireworks along the street side. They would start with ‘poppers’, which were lines of what had to be at least 50 red tubes. These were placed along the road. They would then light them one by one and they would launch into the air and explode with a huge ‘pop!” It was amusing as they made smoke go absolutely everywhere and half the empty exploded cannisters were coming down and landing on passing traffic. Safety standards? Nope!

Next came the crackers. These are incredibly loud and come on long tangled vines. The thing with these is after they have exploded they leave an absolutely unbelievable mess around the area they were lit. The Poppers leave considerable mess also – but nowhere near as much as these crackers.

Then finally, fireworks in a box. They bring out a box the size of a small television with a fuse. Once lit it shoots fireworks into the air in a basic, yet quite impressive display. In true Chinese fashion, all rubbish is left on the roadside for someone else to deal with. Within a minute, both of the boxes from the fireworks displays had been scavenged by passers by.

If you thought fireworks in China were just like New Years Eve at home – think again.

Fireworks in a box in full effect!

Fireworks in a box in full effect!

Happy New Year!

January 26, 2009

Today is Chinese New Year, the most important of all Chinese holidays.  Beginning on the first day of the first lunar month, the festival continues until 15th, this day being known as Lantern Festival.  New Year and the Spring Festival are big business in China.  It is a time where families reunite – resulting in huge people migration across the country.  Migrant workers return home from the cities, and even overseas Chinese return to celebrate with their families.  For many in the country, it can be the only chance to see their family for the entire year, what with so many parents working hundreds of miles away with their children raised by grandparents. 

A typical scene outside Wuxi Train Station as thousands return home for New Year.

A typical scene outside Shanghai Train Station as thousands return home for New Year.

We have had many emails from our former students in the last couple of days, detailing how they will spend their holiday from school.  Most of them are excited at the thought of going home, and being given presents and money in red envelopes by their family.  As is the way with any Chinese festivity, families enjoy a celebratory dinner accompanied by either dumplings (jiaozi – which symbolise wealth due to their shape) or new year cake (niangao). 

Possibly the highlight though is the New Years Gala which is broadcast on CCTV – the mind can only boggle at the wonderment that must be felt watching such a spectacle. 

We were really looking forward to experiencing Chinese New Year, with our hope being to spend the time in Shanghai.  Our second day in China was Lantern Festival day, unfortunately we hadn’t yet found our feet enough to venture into the city for the festivities.  Sadly though, we will have to watch from a distance this year with the hope of being in China again in the future.

Workers decorating outside the Birds Nest

Workers decorating outside the Birds Nest

Young girls practicing a dance in earthquake affected Sichuan Province.

Young girls practicing a dance in earthquake affected Sichuan Province.

This year celebrates the Year of the Ox.  The Ox symbolises a year of prosperity through hardwork.  It is a powerful sign, showing leadership, dependability and patience.  However, this year is expected to be one of conservatism and traditional values, which probably reflects the current financial state of the world.

year-of-the-ox

I have no doubt we’ll be able to hear the fireworks from here tonight.  And with that – Happy New Year everyone!


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