The Chinese really celebrate the New Year with a BANG and a POW and various other ear deafening sounds that are reminiscent of bombs dropping and impending Armageddon.
Fireworks are the most popular way to ring in the New Year and, according to ancient Chinese tradition, the way to scare off evil spirits lurking around. And, by God, did they scare the hell out of me, as I found myself crouching behind chairs and running for cover every time another launch was made…which on New Year’s Eve is about every 5 minutes from morning until the wee hours.
Unlike other places in the world, in China, these pyrotechnic devices are both legal and cheap…which means just about everyone and their mother puts on their own deafening display (and seriously, I saw mothers with children in their arms setting these suckers off).
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that fireworks were invented in China and therefore have always been a major component of the culture, but the locals seriously have no fear of these accidents waiting to happen. We witnessed rockets being launched from people’s bare fists, men with cigarettes dangling from their mouths kneeling inches from a wick and children running barefoot under a rainfall of hot sparks.
(above photos from Cultural China)
But nothing can compare to the actual sounds and sights when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and tens of thousands of people light off their crackers in a simultaneous barrage of explosions that fill the sky.
I caught the scene with some friends from the outside balcony of Glamour Bar. In front of us was the old clock tower of the Customs House, and at the turn of the Lunar year, a million sparkling lights rained down on it. Everywhere you looked the sky was lit up like a Christmas tree and the sound was like nothing I’ve experienced before (nor do I wish to without a helmet and a gun). The locals call the intense explosions “warm noise” (re nao), but for a newbie like myself the only thing “warm” about it was the intense searing sparks threatening to drop on our heads.
Below is a video which was taken a few minutes after midnight. The major fireworks in front of us have dissipated at this point, but it’s a great example of the general level of noise that continued as everyone around the city was still setting off their own show. (P.S. that noise continued until 6am).
As I write this post today, a full 4 days after New Year’s Eve, there are still blasts, pops, fizzes and lights outside my window as the pyromaniacs locals just can’t get enough of these loud, sparkly combustibles. It certainly makes one feel all warm and fuzzy as it’s truly a symbol of holiday-time in Shanghai…that or “duck and cover man we’re being invaded!”
UPDATE: As I sat here writing this post, the explosion of fireworks outside grew to such a level that a quick Google search ensued. Turns out that tonight at midnight (which is an hour from now), Shanghai will erupt into a “24-hour cacophony of fireworks” as the town ushers in the “God of Wealth.” This article states: “Forget about sleeping. Only the loudest bangs are said to get this lucky god’s attention.”
Welp. Who needs sleep when you have a “God of Wealth” on the way and your very own light show from the balcony? Bring on the bang, Shanghai. 🙂