Chinese New Year – Oh the Noise

Wow 2 posts in 1 week!

Firework Litter

I feel like the Grinch… “Oh the Noise, Noise Noise!” I couldn’t stop the celebration from coming, it was here and we could hear it all around. It started soon as the darkness settled in, the first firecrackers echoed off the neighbouring buildings. It was a cold bitter night with below zero temperatures and a high windchill. Soon as the fireworks went off the red papers would blow along the street littering the road. The wind carried the sound and sulfur smelling smoke like grey clouds across the night sky.

We wandered the streets in search of more fireworks. We watched as people with arm loads and shopping cards full of boxes with the noise makers set up their displays for small congregations of neighbours. Even with ear plugs, a hat, a hoodie and hood on the noise was deafening… my ears rang for days! To be heard you had to shout, but the noise drowned out your words. The noise was so loud that you could feel it deep inside you, and it was loud enough I am sure I felt the ground move! The smell of smoke and sulfur filled the air and burned the back of our throats.

Finally the cold got to us and we went inside to warm up only to head out again when the real party began around midnight. The noise was even more intense as fireworks were going off constantly as people ran to light more and more all at once. Men unrolled 500+ firecrackers in long red lines that snaked along the road, large boxes were set up in the middle of the roads. These large boxes “the cake” were the beautiful light displays that we are used to seeing light up our skies at home.

Walking along the street felt like walking on a stoney unpaved road as the debris from firecrackers littered the streets. Small piles of red papers were gathered and burned to help clear things away. Tubes, ‘cake boxes’ and paper disks were discarded as the spent firecrackers had been used up and the crowds dispersed looking for larger crowds who still had some poppers, or heading inside to escape the bitter cold winds.

By 1AM most was quiet and Year of the Dragon had entered with a big bang.

Thursday was another night of fireworks, much louder and intense that Sunday night. Maybe some prize fireworks were saved and waiting for a warmer night. Tonight was more comfortable in temperatures and no wind to chill you to the bone.

About 8PM they started again about every 5-15 minutes. At midnight the flashing night sky, loud bangs echoing off the tall apartment buildings woke us up. The noise would wake the dead! I stood and watched from the living room window and even more splashes of light filled the sky that New Years Eve. All night the noise continued late into the next afternoon. If I didn’t know any better I would think I was in a war zone. I can’t imagine living in a place where the noise is not a celebration, but one of fighting for peace, land or country and wondering IF and WHEN it would end. The fun had worn off and the noise just became an annoyance. The noise is meant to scare off evil spirits, and by now I think they were long gone! I knew it would have to stop soon, and that would be a relief.

This was our first Chinese New Year and it was a worthwhile experience. To  understand another culture first hand is certainly the best learning experience. Discovery through immersion. The locals were more than happy to share their custom with us, and smiled and said Happy New Year in English as we passed or stopped to watch. Xin Nian Kuai Le. We were not lucky enough to receive a red envelope, filled with new ‘lucky’ money. Maybe next year 😉

Stay tuned for more from China…

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Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , , , ,

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6 thoughts on “Chinese New Year – Oh the Noise

  1. Freda Goulet

    Great descriptive blog, Diana. Can hear, smell, and see the street scene you described so well. I didn’t know that the noise was to ward off evil spirits…very interesting. I couldn’t help thinking that the environmental activists here in Canada would be objecting to the pollution…noise and smell, and garbage , left over from this celebration. We need to be less serious here and enjoy the celebrations more!!

    • The ‘garbage’ was short lived… cleaned up almost immediately or by early morning. This is their big holiday and many get to see family that they may not get to see but once a year… so they are very giddy to enjoy the celebrations to the fullest.It is actually 3 weeks long, but 3 days the main holiday. Many people take long train rides home in very cramped conditions to be with family. There is an amazing documentary called the Last Train Home showing the largest people migration in the world. I have seen some of it and the stories are amazing… millions of people leave the main centres where they work for their small villages where they come from. You can watch it at http://www.pbs.org/pov Shanghai lost it crowds, noise and busy atmosphere that is the norm for the last few weeks… that is how many people are not ‘from’ here!

  2. Hi Diana–really enjoyed your descriptive account of Chinese New Year’s. I imagine that it is quite the place to be! My only noise around here is the guy across the street–he gets up at 2 am to plow and keeps moving the truck around with the lights on so he can see where he is going on his little sit down plow. He likes to mow grass at 5 am too. We are still doing okay with the small amount of snow that we have–I hope it stays like this. Take care, Big hugs, Linda

    • Well if you close your eyes, put on an old western with lots of gun fighting, have the snowplows flashing lights light up your bedroom, and then light a bunch of candles and blow them out you may experience Chinese New Year sights, sounds and smells on a small scale 🙂

  3. Leslie

    Going to Delhi for Holi (festival of colour) has been on my ‘bucket list’ for a while. I think I’ll add going to China for New Year to my list. {Seeing the whales in the ocean is still on the top of my bucket list.} What’s on yours?

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