When we moved to Beijing in 2008, people warned us to get out of the city for Chinese New Year. Take a trip to a beach; go home; anything but stay in the capital. Why? Because of the all fireworks. Despite the dire warnings of endless fireworks for 15 days, we decided to stay put. Personally, I was intrigued. All but the simplest fireworks are banned in my hometown and firecrackers were illegal when I was growing up there. So the notion that I could buy rockets or that the neighborhood would be filled with them sounded great.
Beijing did not disappoint. For two weeks, every night they could be seen across the city, but on New Year’s Eve, Day 5, and the final night, being outside was akin to walking through World War III. I loved it. Having half the population out of town and the reduced traffic was merely a bonus.
In recent years, the effort to clean up Beijng’s air quality has drastically reduced the amount of fireworks being used to ward off evil spirits and ring in the new year. Once again, we stayed in Beijing and although the New Year’s Eve display was impressive on the run up to midnight, and day 5 provided a fair amount of show, the rest of the holiday was largely quiet in our neighborhood and the second week has been all but silent. Even my Chinese friends were telling me they didn’t bother buying fireworks this year because of their concerns for the air pollution.
Basically, I think this squashes the argument for leaving town because of all the noise and pollution. Beijing is pleasant during the holiday. Sure, some restaurants are closed and it is a good idea to call ahead before venturing out to some venues, but plenty stays open and traffic is never lighter. Next year, you might even find yourselves, as we did, seated in a restaurant with a view where the kids can “oh and ah” at the fireworks while they await their dinner. That is, unless the fireworks get banned altogether.
Photo: Storyvillegirl (Flickr)