As a foreigner, it’s impossible to live in China for any length of time and not develop some sort of Chinese New Year strategy.
Most, the rich and clever ones at least, leave the country. Getting the frack out well before the world’s largest human migration takes place and starts blowing shit up is ideal, but simply not practical for everyone – particularly those of us who have spouses that get all warm and fuzzy around the holiday.
Chinese New Year is, for all intents and purposes, the Christmas of the East. Warm familial gathers, gifts, crowded malls, last-minute shopping, celebration of myths, and food – lots and lots of food.
The biggest difference is the god damn fireworks. Y’know how annoying it is to walk into a store on the 26th of December for some afternoon shopping and hear Jingle Bells for a ninety billionth time? Well, it’s just like that – but instead of a shop it’s your home, instead of the afternoon it’s somewhere between 12am and 6am and instead of the muzakiriffic carol it is explosions that put the Bombing of Baghdad to shame.
This being the fifth Spring Festival I’ve
endured celebrated, I had hoped that the whole thing wouldn’t phase me. My lack of sleep and frayed nerves are evidence that I was wrong.
Chinese New Year’s Eve this past Sunday night was, however, quite excellent. Our friends Mark and Lyndal came over and Maggie cooked us up a feast of Chinese food. After dinner some more friends joined us and we had a few drinks before we headed downtown to buy explosives of questionable quality and drink some more – an activity that anywhere else would be illegal for its rather obvious conflict with public safety.
We hit up the Shamrock, as it’s been ages since I’ve been downtown, and I tend to gravitate towards places familiar. Last year I also celebrated CNY eve at the Shamrock, and it was strikingly quieter this year – people-wise at least. I’m not sure if its the tighter economic situation or the winds of favour have shifted a bit since I used to be a regular down there.
After midnight, and the cacophony of fireworks, we lit some sparklers that were quickly scooped up by the little beggar kids who would swing them around and shout out “gei wo money, gei wo money”.
A quick video, playing with YouTube’s annotations, showing the Zero Hour
Today is, allegedly (as I’ve not found any solid references to it online), “Second Chinese New Year”. Second Chinese New Year falls five days after the First Chinese New Year, which itself happens a week after “Small Chinese New Year”, and 10 days before the Lantern Festival. I think someone needs to enter a 12-step program for EA – exploders anonymous – “Hi, I’m China and I like to blow shit up.”
Here are a few photos from Chinese New Year’s Eve down on Shiquan Jie outside the Shamrock: