Chinese New Year

The Lunar new year celebration begins before and continues after the actual day and fades seamlessly into the spring festival. I observed the event festivities to include fireworks, our neighbors having a mahjong tournament in their garage, fireworks, almost everything being closed down (including our favorite restaurants), more fireworks, people playing cards and drinking down by the river, and did I mention fireworks? Everyone here seems to be a pyrotechnic engineer. I have yet to determine wether that is a born-with aptitude or a self proclamation and while the thought of that may sound...well, dangerous, it also produces one of the most brilliant (and loudest and longest) firework displays I have ever seen. All throughout the city, by the pagoda, up on the mountains, and between the buildings all around us there are explosions of color illuminating the night sky. It was incredible. I don't think any image could even begin to illustrate this phenomenon.

There are two basic types of fireworks that I have experienced here. Aerial fireworks, after being ignited, launch into the sky. When they burst, bright and vivid streams of colorful light shoot out and quickly dissolve into the night sky as they gracefully fall back towards the earth. The ones our neighbors set off made a whizzing sound as they raced up into the air (and alarmingly close to me and my head). As the charge detonated the explosion (not far from my head) the combustible shrapnel rained down, hitting and bouncing off of the metal water tower on the roof (that I was taking cover behind). Thank you water tower. You're my hero. 

This is what a hand-held slow exposure looks like when you have to move quick. :)

This is what a hand-held slow exposure looks like when you have to move quick. :)

The second type are ground fireworks. When the fuse reaches the bursting charge these emit quick paced, extremely loud popping lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, I would say. These shower shreds of paper like confetti with each pop, leaving behind a brightly colored beautiful mess. These are especially my favorite when set off before 6am (Really?).  I'm not convinced that it was completely necessary but I mean, who doesn't love being woken up in a sheer panic or thinking that you are dying followed by the fight-or-flight response. Every. Single. Time. This unfortunate wake up call happened more times than I would prefer to remember and even seemed to have a snooze feature (Really!?). During this celebratory period, at 2 or 3am after the last firework had finished, the neighbors' roosters became baffled by the silence and felt it was their responsibility to fill the void until the wake up call. I have found in situations when nothing can be done that it is better to find humor and laugh than be upset and that's exactly what I do.  People here (and roosters, respectively) know how to party.  Business owners close up for about two weeks so that time can be spent with family and friends. Fireworks originated here and continue to be a large part of the culture and celebrations. Sleep deprivation aside, I think it's great; it is like nothing I have experienced before. Besides, all these things to this degree only happens once a year. I think. I hope. Gotta go. Need to catch up on sleep just in case...