Last night was my sixth time welcoming in a new lunar year here in China. I always approach Chinese New Year’s Eve with a healthy dose of cynical expatations, and I’m always blown away, pun intended, with how it never fails to impress me.
True, the day(s) leading up to CNYE have every ratta-tat-tat sound sending a splash of rage through my spine for its relentless assault on holiday peace and quiet, but when the big event arrives and the entire country ignites into a cacophony of explosive sounds and visuals, it’s hard not to appreciate how truly one-of-a-kind the experience is.
It’s what I imagine people who live in Rio feel during Carnival, or Thai’s during Songkran. At its least, CNYE is annoying and at its worst down right dangerous — but it is, without a doubt, truly awesome.
Canadians are no strangers to fireworks; with decent, if conservative, showings twice a year. But it’s just not the same. No holiday in Canada is. I’m sure the same could be said for most other expat home countries.
Last night was our second time celebrating the new year in Suzhou’s expat ghetto, SIP. The laowai-saturated development zone tends to empty out over the holidays as the foreigners head for beaches and the affluent Chinese pack up the Porsche SUVs and visit their home towns. Last year’s CNYE was hit with a heavy snow, which left things a little bit quiet. Since then we’ve moved into an apartment on the 22nd floor, and I was hoping that similar weather wouldn’t ruin my chances of checking out fireworks at eye-level. I was not disappointed.
With many of our friends out of town, and Casey still too small to really appreciate the chaos and danger of cheap Chinese fireworks, we kept things low-key. Our friends Steven and Angel came over and we picked up some pre-arranged take-out from an excellent local Sichuan place (we had to book the take-out 4 days in advance as demand for the place is so high).
After dinner and some drinks we all headed down to Jinji Hu (“Golden Rooster Lake”) which is a couple blocks away. I had heard that the SIP corporation was launching fireworks from the small island in the centre of the lake and following it with their Spring Festival fountain show. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was thoroughly impressed.
The 45 minute show featured a decent collection of fireworks a calibre above the typical family-launched stuff, and the fountain choreography was impressive. What I liked most was that I finally had a chance to use my DSLR to shoot some fireworks. There’s nothing uncommon about fireworks in China, but the very thing that makes the whole event so great, also usually makes it terrible to try and shoot — it’s complete pandemonium. The event at the lake gave me a specific spot of sky I could aim at and plenty of time to play with shutter speeds and apertures — I’m pretty slow when it comes to shooting, so extra time is key for me taking anything that’s not a blurry mess of poor crops.
Here are the results:
Fireworks @ Lakeside Park – SIP, Suzhou
Fireworks In Our Community
Heading down to the lake Casey didn’t seem too impressed with all the noise, but only a few minutes after arriving he fell asleep and remained so for the whole event (as shown in the above picture).
After things wrapped up at the lake we headed back home and watched the annual CCTV Gala. Well, Angel and Maggie watched it, Steven and I spent most of the time poking fun at it with the rest of the China Tweeple.
As the countdown began, I headed out onto our front balcony to take in the sulphuric spectacular. If you watch about a minute into the video below, you’ll see the camera nearly fall out of my hands as the air right beside me filled with fireworks lit from down below. Nearly peed my pants — great way to start the new year.
All-in-all, it was a great time with great food and great friends. Now in the acrid afterglow, I’ll resume my dour outlook for next year’s bedlamic blast.