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Spring Festival an opportunity to experience traditions

By Bruce Connolly | | Updated: 2018-02-21 12:30
Colourful festive wind wheels Beijing 2018 [Photo by Bruce Connolly/]

As I write this piece during the Spring Festival holiday, Beijing is amazingly quiet. Unusually so — as this year, the Year of the Dog, started without the usual cacophony of firecrackers lighting up the sky accompanied by deafening explosions. Within the capital’s major urban zones, setting off fireworks is now prohibited both for environmental and safety concerns. This scenario takes me back to the Beijing of my earlier days when similar enforcements were in place. Historically firecrackers were a feature of older Beijing festive traditions, a time when people lived mostly within hutong communities. They were believed to have been invented in China over 2,000 years ago and were seen as intrinsic to the start of the Lunar New Year. Many earlier conventions have been difficult to transfer into today’s urban scene, where the majority of the population now lives in apartment buildings. That initial ban in Beijing was lifted in 2006, but 12 years later the city is again quiet. The sky outside the cafe where I write this is clear, with excellent visibility.

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