Tranquility amidst the fireworks

By Kelly Diep
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, February 15, 2011
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Prior to the arrival of the rabbit year, I had reached a point that many expats in China come to – the halfway period. This is a time when having reached the second half of our stay in China, we begin to reflect on the time that has passed with a bittersweet longing to return to where we came from. At this time, many of us are eager to go home, if only for a short visit, and seek refuge from the pollution, language mishaps, and cultural blunders. In other words, we have reached the disgruntled expat period, and the country's charm that originally drew us here seems to have worn off. However, instead of submitting to my desire to make a short visit back to the States, I decided to embrace the opportunity to stay behind and ring in the new year with China. For those of us in the expat community that decided to brave out this period of spontaneous firecrackers and sheer chaos, Beijing turned out to be quite enjoyable during China's most beloved holiday.


Similar to the December holiday season in the States, Lunar New Year seems to bring more smiles on people's faces. Even my cab drivers were more talkative and eager to suggest exciting ways to celebrate. While New Year celebrations (December 31) in the West are usually spent among friends, Lunar New Year is the quintessential family holiday. We've all heard the courageous tales of individuals who stood in the cold for hours just to purchase a standing-room ticket home. During this time, families are finally able to ride the subway together because there is no fear of small children being crushed by crowds. Those who have been away from home for a year are finally reunited with their loved ones and prepare their stomachs for decadent feasts.


The first week of the holiday was wonderful because the mass exodus from the city left the streets of Beijing relatively quiet and empty (unless one made a visit to tourist hot spots). The absence of needless car honking and pushing on the subway cars was a great source of tranquility in a city that is usually inundated with noise. It was the first time I could get a seat on the subway and cross streets without fear of being reprimanded by an angry driver.


Of course, this silence could not be maintained. After all, the holiday would not be the same without firecrackers exploding on every block. Despite the dangers that come with citizens setting off their own fireworks (a good example is the burning of the CCTV building in 2009), all of us have become enraptured with the beauty of a tradition meant to expel evil spirits. One cannot miss the conspicuous red booths that sell firecrackers and fireworks to locals and foreigners alike. I must admit that the first hour was thrilling. However, by the eighth hour on New Year's Eve, I was hoping the government would outlaw the noise.

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