Monday, February 06, 2012


Chinese New Year is the most important calendar event in China. It marks the beginning of the new year, the first term of the solar term and marks the end of winter. Never mind that it takes place in January, if the Chinese say its Spring, collectively, it is Spring. Fifteen days after the beginning of the CNY is the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of celebration. People buy all sorts of things for CNY, it’s like Christmas in the U.S. Families gather together and have a feast while red decorations sporting sayings like, “good luck”, “wealth”, “happiness” are put around homes and entrance ways. This year is the year of the dragon, so there are an awful lot of dragon decorations too. I even made one myself.I took foam board and cut out pieces, then fit the pieces together. Anyways, back on topic. There are two particularly spectacular things about CNY as I see. The first is that most people return to their home cities/villages to spend time with family. Think about Christmas travel in the U.S….. got it? Now multiply that by 4. Two billion journeys are registered by plane, train, car, bus, scooter, etc. Really, people pack up their belongings on a scooter, with the kids, and head for their home village. I’m sure it takes days, but hey, they get there. This is the biggest migration in the world and in Shanghai it’s easy to see. The days leading up to CNY see people frantically moving about, but the day after the holiday begins this place is a ghost town. The second are fireworks. Fireworks are supposed to ward off evil spirits and so can be heard many times throughout the year for various reasons, but during the CNY it seems like every moment of every day is filled with the sound of fire crackers going off. On the 1st night and 15th night especially, people pull out all the stops. This year we went to our roof at midnight on the first day to see the fireworks. Looking out across Shanghai, in every direction, where bright fireworks and the noise was deafening. It was beautiful. I’d never seen anything like it. Of course there are lots of negative side affects to this, it’s really noisy, for one and after a while it gets quite annoying because people light of fire crackers no matter what time of day it is. Apparently 5am is a good time to ward off evil spirits. I’m trying to sleep! It’s also putting tons of smoke into the already polluted air. Some estimates I saw put it at 50 times the normal level of pollution on CNY. There are also always lots of injuries and damage because, while many of these are heavy duty shoot up 100 ft into the sky and explode in a rain of burning embers type of fireworks it seems like anybody can light them off. There are some going off on the street corner by my apartment right now, literally showering people. I’m not sure if all this leads to “happiness” “wealth” or “good luck”, but an awful lot of people seem to think so. In all, I think it’s a special time of year, the city comes alive. I just wish they would keep it down a little. I’m trying to sleep.