To Hedonism and Explosives

by Tatiana Luna

Symbolic firecrackers at a temple

It is Chinese New Year’s Eve, and already by noon we could hear the pop, crackle, and fizzle of strings of firecrackers going off in the near distance.  Fireworks are not allowed within the grounds of Horizon Cove (it’s positively un-Chinese of the management here), but the explosion that occurs at midnight everywhere else in China including around the perimeter of Horizon Cove will be exciting and loud enough.  However, it won’t compare to last year when we were in the midst of the deafening roar that scared every dragon and stray cat in China into their caves.

It is strange feeling the tension and excitement that comes with a time of celebration that has nothing to do with me.  It is not my New Year and the celebrations have no meaning for me.  The Year of the Rabbit?  Whatever the rabbit means for the superstitious, it has also been turned into a fluffy stuffed animal on grocery store shelves.  And while the holiday centers around and celebrates extended family more than any other Chinese holiday, it also represents a two-week period where most people take a total break from normal life, thus, the often hedonistic nature of the celebration–an overabundance of eating, drinking, lazing about, watching TV, playing games, and going shopping.  This doesn’t apply to everybody (there are plenty of poor souls who have to work for a living in stores that everyone else is shopping in), but I’d wager a majority pass the time this way.  Yet the unadulterated, explosive way that people celebrate this night gives me my own little thrill of excitement as I witness the orgasmic release of explosives that occur in the streets, the stairwells, out of windows and balconies.

This cacophony and it’s attendant festivities seem to represent a society-wide release unlike any other I have witnessed, and I realize the feeling is contagious and contains its own meaning separate from Chinese superstitions and hopes for fortune, success, and prosperity.  In this way, the lunar New Year could begin to contain some meaning for me as well as our family creates its own celebration rituals.  On this night, the Chinese know how to party, and as the roar engulfs me at midnight, I might be inclined to say that in these two ways — baijiu 白酒 (rice liquor) and fireworks — they celebrate their New Year better than we do.