Chinese Fireworks Galore
The scene is the Tangjia Marketplace late in the afternoon on the eve of the Chinese New Year Day. Most of the businesses have pulled down their steel garage doors and closed for the holiday. Many folks are already in their homes preparing for a traditional feast.
But one group of merchants has not left yet. They are capitalizing on a need of many last minute shoppers. No, it’s not the liquor stores or even the food markets. It’s the firework stands. When the New Year comes rolling in, fireworks are a staple. A New Year without them would be equivalent to Halloween without candy in our country-it’s almost mandatory. History tells us the Chinese invented fireworks. There are plenty of signs that they are definitely embracing this part of their culture.
Usually in Tangjia, you see a fair amount of price bargaining going on. Not for these items. I witnessed plenty of people laying down a lot of cash without questioning the price. (And when Chinese are unhappy about a price they can be pretty animated!) To say business was brisk is an understatement.
It’s interesting to see fireworks sold out in the open since in most of the U.S. they are heavily regulated. Some of the haphazard handling of them here would give a representative of the Consumer Product Safety Commission a coronary.
A group of excited young boys couldn’t wait until darkness to enjoy their stash of fireworks. So they got the explosions going in the daytime. Problem is when some of them did not go off they tried to “jump start” them. It was bad enough when they kicked the firecrackers with their feet. But when one boy actually started picking up ones that did not go off, I winced in horror. Flashback to my grade school years. I remember very clearly a man in my neighborhood who lost a hand from a delayed fireworks problem. I would have loved to tell these boys that they should not be handling “live ammunition”. But since I cannot speak Chinese, it was a moot point. Even if I yelled at them, some parent may have thought that the foreigner was abusing their child. So much for using my parenting instincts!
One mother apparently believed she was doing her part to ensure her child’s safety. She gave her small boy a lighted cigarette for the firecracker fuses. Safety…maybe. Good example…not so much. It also looked quite strange seeing a boy of about three years of age roaming around with a cigarette in his hand!
During the day time , even some adults get into a bit of mischief by lighting the fireworks, throwing them, and running away. Some of the throws were a bit careless and got a little too close to passersby. Fortunately, the worst I witnessed was people holding their eardrums.
When night descends, the “ceremonies” get serious. The vendors making mega money from earlier fireworks sales have departed but others have taken their place. Fireworks can be found in numerous locations on street corners. Anyone with last minute needs for a big boom can still be satisfied. The amount of material available would probably put an American display to shame. Once darkness hit, I got to see the firepower packed in those colorful boxes.
The discharges from bigger boxes fill the sky will a wide array of colors worthy of any commercial display in the US. That’s the amazing thing . Look around in any direction and you can see several spectacular sights at the same time. Remember, these are all individual efforts not ones set off by a group. Many of them are comparable to what you’d find at an America 4th of July celebration held by a city or town.
The prime time for a large share of the explosions is at midnight to welcome in the Chinese New Year. The road behind my apartment complex is a popular launch site. As the crowds headed down to the area ,you could feel the excitement they felt in carrying their fireworks. Some folks had substantial quantities. One family pulled up with the whole back of a van filled with fireworks!
Unlike most American displays, these last quite a while. The results of the continuous booms are thick clouds of haze and piercing sounds that set off car alarms. That screeching sound is as steady as the blasts in the sky or on the ground. After about an hour’s time, I had seen plenty and headed home to sleep. . But they continued for some time. I heard them in my bedroom as late as 6AM.
The next day the landscape all over is loaded with shredded pieces of red fireworks paper. Based on the large quantity of the debris, it would appear it was enjoyable experience for many with certain exceptions.
The people who would not be pleased are the street sweepers who have to clean everything up by hand the next day!