Nothing says New Year in China more than the acrid, tear-inducing smoke from a thousand rattling red firecrackers, convulsing relentlessly along a village street like an irascible dragon.
These tiny tubes of firepower spew out flames and red paper so fast that the lighter has to be deft on their feet to move back from the explosion. Drifts of spent capsules and unscorched paper pile up along the pavements; a sort of edgy blossom for Spring Festival.
Anything further from a firework display set to music and accompanied by a live orchestra, and possibly a fountain, you couldn’t imagine. The louder, smokier and wilder the firecrackers, the better the chances of chasing off any pesky bad spirits for the coming year. A Catherine wheel and a couple of sparklers just wouldn’t do the job.
Firecrackers are a crucial part of the celebrations, but they can be so dangerous that many Chinese cities have banned them altogether. Little wonder then that millions of people are willing to make the long, slow and crowded journey back to their families in the countryside to see in the New Year.
Amidst the madness and the infernal racket of explosives, families are reunited for a short time. And the smoke lingers well after the last festival dumpling has been eaten.
Happy New Year to all, but especially to my fellow Monkeys.