Chinese New Year

Renmin Road near midnight.

Renmin Road near midnight.

Chinese New Years day was last Thursday, the 19th of February. Much like new years celebrations in the west the night before is a time to gather with friends and family so we can eat, drink, and set shit on fire in the streets at midnight. Ok, so maybe we don’t set off tons of explosives in the streets on New Years Eve in the west, but we should really think about doing it from now on because it is awesome. Our personal celebration was pretty low-key compared to the locals. We had a late nap, a nice big dinner, tacos I think – very Chinese, and sat around waiting for midnight to come so we could grab the cameras and hit the streets looking for action. We didn’t go far because our hotel, as well as many in the district, had fireworks displays of their own – and by fireworks displays I mean they block off a section of the main road in town, The People’s Road, set out scores of boxes containing 20-50 mortars apiece, and then light them up at the stroke of 00:00.

This is a picture of fireworks hitting our apartment windows on the 20th floor. There is a lot of looking the other way when it comes to safety on this particular day.

This is a picture of fireworks hitting our apartment windows on the 20th floor. There is a lot of looking the other way when it comes to safety on this particular day.

Before I go any further I must explain that Chinese New Year, or the Chinese Spring Festival, isn’t  just arsonists running wild in the streets. We have only lived here a few months and don’t know every detail of the celebration but the gist is that it is a time for families to reconvene and prepare for a new and prosperous year. People buy small gifts for each other, give ornately decorated red envelopes of money to their favorite people, and cook elaborate feasts. There are lion dances and beautiful red and gold decorations everywhere, and my favorite part is that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. The stores are mobbed and the lines are incredible but everyone is jazzed to be back in their hometown with their families. We may have to see about importing some friends and family members over for next year’s festival.

The sparklers here are pretty impressive.

The sparklers here are pretty impressive.

Within the tradition there is a good reason for the fireworks and the red decorations. Legend has it that the Nian, a beast with extreme appetites and a bad-ass attitude, would come down from the mountains or out of the sea each spring and eat all the stored food in the villages, then when that was finished the Nian would start eating all of the people as well. Naturally this sort of unchecked aggression would not stand (man) so someone figured out what the bad-ass beast was scared of – the color red and loud fireworks – Bob’s your uncle, crisis solved and a celebration is created.

This is down a few blocks from our apartment. Could you imagine the colective hissy fits that local fire marshals would be having in the US. Not a big deal here.

This is down a few blocks from our apartment. Could you imagine the collective hissy-fits that local fire marshals would be having in the US? Not a big deal here.

This is the lower half of our hotel's big show.

This is the lower half of our hotel’s big show.

And this would be the upper half from a slightly different angle as I nearly got hit by a car after the shot above.

And this would be the upper half from a slightly different angle as I nearly got hit by a car after the shot above.

One more for good measure.

One more for good measure.

And this is what it looked like after it was all done. Decoration lights are off and everyone went in to warm themselves.

And this is what it looked like after it was all done. Decoration lights are off and everyone went in to warm themselves. Not sure whose job it was to clean up but everything was pretty well cleaned up by morning.

The following day I went down hard with a man-sized cold (I think) and I am just now starting to feel right again. Because I was sick we didn’t do much more celebrating that didn’t involve NyQuil. The Spring Festival is still going though and I am told that this Wednesday evening will be another big night for fireworks so maybe I will have more for you soon. The Lantern Festival is the official end of Chinese New Year festivities and this year it is held on March 5th, but most people will go back to their jobs this Thursday. Traffic will pick back up, the decorations will be put away for another year, and we will all move into the spring and the new year afresh. Gong xi fa cai!

© Peter Molgaard and Afield Book, 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs and original content without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that permission is granted and that full and clear credit is given to Peter Molgaard and Afield Book with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. If you would like to use any of the imagery displayed you may send your requests to molgaardpmo@gmail.com

 

5 thoughts on “Chinese New Year

  1. It is very nice to see these very good pictures and blog. And be a free lance photographer is my dream job.
    Tell me if you need assistant here in Dalian for your adventure. I am glad to join and learn to be a photographer.

  2. Sorry for a late response. Last week is a very busy week for my project.
    It will be great to go shooting somewhere. Spring is the best season for Dalian. We can also join some activities organised by some photographer fans group. Definitely, you can enjoy a lot.
    By the way, it is also a good excuse for me to buy a new lens.

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