A Sea of Fireworks

Today is the first day of the year of the Dragon! I wanted to share with you my experience of Chinese New Years Eve because I think it will be one that I will never forget for the rest of my life! Fireworks could be heard right outside my apartment from the moment I woke up yesterday morning. Actually, they were the reason I woke up, and they could be heard constantly throughout the day. I found out the significance of the firecrackers and fireworks on this day:

The Chinese legend tells of an ancient monster that would terrorize, eat, and destroy the Chinese people and their livestock every Chinese New Years Eve. The people would hide in the mountains every year, in fear of the monster. One year, an old man came to the village and said that he did not fear the beast and he knew how to chase it away. The villagers did not believe him, and since he would not go with them to the mountains, they left him alone in the village. When the beast arrived, it was met with sudden bursts of firecrackers, bright lights, loud noises and flying red banners. Startled and confused, the monster fled and was never seen again. When the villagers returned, the old man was gone but his materials had been left behind for the villagers to use the next year. So every New Years Eve from then on, Chinese people across the country light red lanterns, hang red banners on their walls, set off firecrackers and light fireworks all night long, straight into the New Year, in memory of the monster and to scare away bad spirits.

I found this story incredibly interesting when I heard it last night because of what I witnessed later that night. Around 6pm, Tamlyn, Roxy, Casey and I headed to Nina’s aunt’s house for dinner. She’s Tammy’s Real student, but she’s become our friend as well because she can speak very well and is our age. The walk to meet Nina was quite eery. The streets were practically empty of cars and people, and all I could hear were firecracker bangs but I couldn’t see where they were being lit, so they sounded like gunshots. In some cases, I could see the lights from the crackers bouncing off nearby buildings and I could smell the gunpowder, but the streets seriously gave the impression of a war-zone.

We went to her aunt’s house and met her family, ate hot pot, and sang songs. The food was amazing, but it was a very strange eating situation. We were the guests so we were seated at the table around the hot pot, while the rest of the family sat in the living room and waited for us to finish eating. We said this was silly and we would happily wait for them to eat first, but they insisted and wouldn’t hear of it! Right after we finished eating, we left! Usually at a function like this I would stay and visit with our hosts for a while, but Nina had us up and out of there 5 minutes after we ate. With many thank you’s and Happy New Year wishings, we headed to Nina’s apartment a little bit out of the city.  At Nina’s we drank delicious red tea and ate chocolate while watching movies, waiting for it to turn midnight. We were on the 14th floor of the apartment building, so we could hear and see nearby fireworks very easily.

Around 11:30pm is when it happened. The bangs and blasts coming from outside were so constant and loud we couldn’t ignore them anymore. We went to her windows and looked outside and I couldn’t believe my eyes. From Nina’s high windows you can see across the city skyline into the mountains behind, but last night the entire city was bright with fireworks! It looked so incredible, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it justice in words. It seemed like there were fireworks being lit on every street in the city and colours of greens, reds, pinks, golds, and blues were sparking and falling over the city buildings! There were people lighting fireworks on the street that our apartment building was on, and when they went off they were right in our reach, 14 floors up, literally 15 meters from my face! Fireworks were igniting as far as my eyes could see, straight across the city and into the mountains. I can’t imagine what it would have looked like flying over the city at that time, maybe like you’re flying over a sea of glitter. This went on constantly from 11:30 all the way up the countdown to midnight, and long after that. We counted down from 10 in Chinese and when the clock struck twelve we gave each other hugs and jumped around in excitement! The sea of fireworks created an atmosphere of excitement that I’ve never really experienced in Canada before. At midnight it’s tradition to make a wish, so I put my hands together and we were quiet for a minute while we all thought about our wishes for the New Year. After this, we continued to watch the fireworks which never paused until well after 12:30am. Eventually the smoke from the fireworks began to blur our vision of the fireworks in the distance. Around 1am we decided to head home.

The streets were covered with firework wrappers and garbage, and there was so much smoke in the city that it was almost like a low fog had swarmed the streets of Hohhot. The city smelt strongly like a bonfire and going outside made my eyes water. I’m convinced that Chinese New Years is the main reason for China’s air pollution problem. We thanks Nina for everything, and once I was home I fell asleep very quickly. I’m so blessed and happy to have experienced Chinese New Years in China, particularly because it’s the year of the Dragon; my year. I don’t think I’ll ever be excited for seeing fireworks in Canada ever again. How could I, when I’ve been so close to some that I could have reached out and grabbed it! Truly a remarkable and once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I couldn’t think of a more unique and original way to start off my Chinese New Year than that.

Heading to Vietnam for a week tomorrow! Will update you when I get back!
Happy Chinese New Years everyone!!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. maryanne rooney
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 21:21:35



  2. Marilyn Hanstead
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 23:13:45

    AWESOME STEPH. Wish we all could have been there!!


  3. Lois Christianson
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 05:38:35

    Hi Steph
    What an experience that must have been. You’ll never forget it.
    Hope your trip to Vietnam will be great.
    and once again here’s to your year.
    Love Aunty


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: