Beijing's being Bombed!! Oh no, it's just Chinese New Year
"Hello Birmingham, this is Kate Adie reporting from some horrifying war-torn land"...Oh no, wait, that's not right...
This is in fact Nikki Aaron coming to you from Beijing. Differences? Many. Similarities? Also many. For those are not bomb blasts, machines guns and screams of horror upon the streets of China - they're fireworks, firecrackers, and squeals of excitement, as the nation welcomes the almighty Year of the Dragon.
For new arrivals in China, the first Chinese New Year, or "chun jie" can be exciting, scary, and overwhelming. Five years in, and I'm STILL excited, nervous and scared by the celebrations. How can I not be? Coming from a country where we are scared within an inch of our wits with horror stories and school videos warning of the dangers of playing with fireworks in the run up to Bonfire night, is it any wonder that the sight of gigantic fireworks rocketing every which way and where, to me, may as well be the midst of world war III.
The post 80's generation in Britain has been taught to hold sparklers at arms length while wearing gloves, or else risk losing an arm. Therefore, coping with a nation of people who light fireworks along pavements, roads, and everywhere else at New Year feels like an episode of Casualty waiting to happen. But this is just one of the many wonderful things that you can't help but love about China; it's my very own twilight zone...
So what is all the banging about? Well, as well as celebrating the New Year with a festive show of fireworks, the main aim is to create the biggest racket possible! The loud sounds of the firecrackers are believed to scare away evil spirits, therefore clearing the way for good luck to come our way in the New Year. The Dragon dance (or wu long), is more commonly seen south of China - notably Hong Kong and Guangdong province, and is another traditional aspect of the New Year celebration. In some parts of China, crowds of people pelt the dragons with firecrackers - they say that the harder you hit the dragon, the more luck you will have in the New Year. However, I'm not sure the dragon dancers (who are half naked and controlling the movement of the dragon) consider the gesture quite so lucky!
Out of all the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Dragon is believed to be the most auspicious. This is because Chinese people believe that they are the descendents of this mythical animal. To be born in the Year of the Dragon is said to bless you with success, confidence, and good fortune. Unsurprisingly, the end of last year and the beginning of this year has seen a significant increase in the number of mothers-to-be. Pregnant bellies are everywhere you look! They're also a stark reminder that no matter how modern China has become, the hearts of the Chinese people value their history and culture above everything else.
This has been my first Chinese New Year in China that I have been single. Every year before this was, my New Years were celebrated in the most traditional sense - with my Chinese boyfriend and his family, making and eating Chinese dumplings, or 'jiaozi', and drinking Chinese liquor, or 'bai jiu'. This year I celebrated the New Year with my western friends, and did what western people tend to do on a national holiday - go to a bar, drink, dance and party. Although it was a fun alternative, at the back of my mind was that feeling that you have when you spend Christmas away from home. It may be fun, but at this time of the year there's only place that you should be - and that's with your family.