Carpet-bombing in the new year

Let it be said (and I am sure I am not the first to do so) that lunar new year in Shanghai is crayzy.

Deceptively so … a few days before the year ends, the city becomes almost empty, as people make the trek back to their hometown to celebrate the holiday with their family.  Shops close.  Work pressures give way to long lunch breaks.  Streets and footpaths become pleasantly roomy.

But then, as the new year is just about to tick over, things go totally bananas.  Every street in the city looks kinda like this …

The custom is to get out in the street and let off fireworks – another good occasion to scare away those bad spirits.

Generally, it’s low fuss.  People just pop out (often wearing their bedclothes) to light some eardrum-bursting crackers and to throw some sparklers around.  Streets are given over to the activity with cars and buses having to carefully navigate around the fireworks as they explode.

We were at a pub in the evening and a few of the staff (and some very drunk patrons) did the honours on the footpath outside.   No lost fingers, no spilt drinks, thankfully.

When you account for millions of people doing this, the cumulative effect is pretty huge.   People often liken it to a bombing campaign – deafening blasts and flashing lights all over the place, followed by a toxic haze that descends over the city.  I couldn’t get the taste of firecracker out of my lungs for hours …

And the streets are filled with the debris of all this fun-making.  Boxes (containing up to 100 ‘shots’ that hopefully have all exploded) and shreds of red paper lie scattered everywhere.

I got up earlyish in the morning to take some photos of all this mess but was amazed to find that thousands of people had been out in the street cleaning while I slept.  The streets were spotless.

I did however find that my neighbours had been burning money again.  Fake money, obviously…

And we made a trip to the local fruit shop (one of the few businesses that stayed open for the night) to buy a new year gift for our gateman and his family.   A box of oranges (certainly not chocolates) is the done thing here.


Welcome to the year of the rabbit!
It’s one of the better years, apparently.


One Response to Carpet-bombing in the new year

  1. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

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