Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese New Year 2013

The west tracks time using the Gregorian calendar while the East (China specifically) tracks time using a lunar calendar. The West celebrated the turn of the year on January 1st but the East celebrates on February 10th.   So 2013 arrived in the West earlier than the East. Strange but true.

The start of the new year in China is known as Chunjie (spring festival). It lasts almost three weeks. Last night was the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. The most remarkable aspect of this crazy celebration is the fireworks. Fireworks shoot into the dark sky from every corner of the city blocks. Fireworks are set up next to residential buildings, so close that you have to close your windows to prevent the sparks from flying inside your apartment.

With this background knowledge you might wonder why a photographer would risk his life atop a 13 story building during this crazy four hour long event. Ah, glad you asked. It's all just to capture a photo of course. What I didn't realize is, the fireworks explode right at my eye level. I had to stand behind a brick wall holding my cable release to capture these pictures. I was afraid that the sparks would damage my wide angle lens. One fireworks display surprised me so, the sparks hit me and I jumped back behind a door and dropped my cable release.

The celebrations last way past twelve midnight. They go until two or three in the morning and beyond. Even now (it's the next day at two o'clock in the afternoon) there are large explosions throughout the city.

These displays are not controlled by trained experts of large corporations nor are there requirements for the purchase or release of these canon-like works. No, rather common families spend $500-$1000 on fireworks to shoot off the night of the 9th. These are not firecrackers or even cherry bombs and sparklers. Little kids pass by 4'x 4' planter-box sized crevasses full of explosives. The loud canons blast colors into the sky 20 or more stories high and shoot sparks in a 200 foot radius. These are full on fireworks displays handled by uncle and grandpa after over drinking at the Chunjie meal. This is serious stuff I'm talking about. And everyone has them. Each family tries to outdo the next.

Next time (if there is a next time) I'll wear full body gear before venturing out into the crazy world of a Chinese New Year celebration, especially atop a building where the apex of the explosions occur.

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching. -Anon