Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The Year of the Rat is about to begin.
And Beijing is booming. Literally.
All over the city people are setting off millions of firecrackers and fireworks.
As I write, there's a mini fireworks display in front of me. They seem to be the short and stubby kind, hardly rising above 10 storeys, but they're a colourful spectacle to say the least.
However, when you're not in the warm comfort of your own home and out on the street, hearing the loud booms around you can be a scary experience. It almost feels like you're in a war zone, wondering where the next explosion will be.
Firecrackers are like giant sparklers in the night, and their brilliance is soon quickly over. Afterwards streets are littered with tiny pieces of red paper, and one wonders who will be cleaning that up.
People are going mad for these traditional bangs as they're meant to scare away the evil spirits for the new year.
Fireworks and firecrackers were previously banned in the city until everyone was up in arms about it and the municipal government allowed people to set them off again last year.
Now there are make-shift stands on street corners selling everything from small firecrackers to giant boxes that when lit set off fireworks.
The loud booms were already echoing in the sky a few days ago -- both day and night -- and tonight's the big night. I and many other people (and animals) won't have much of a restful sleep.
Perhaps everyone is hoping this the Olympic year will be even more auspicious so they're setting off more fireworks than usual to prevent the evil spirits from even thinking of setting shop in Beijing.
Or perhaps as a sign of their growing wealth, people want to show how much money they can burn. Literally.